Repo Commentary-07/28/20

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It is Day 140 (on 7/28) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20).

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. I now have friends whose family members have died of COVID-19. In fact, one friend lost her brother and mother to COVID-19, but she herself survived.

I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry. I have been contracted as a consultant to write about the Repo industry for an educational platform (see Repo section). I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets. I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I have not written one for more than a month, as I have been very busy leading up to my full knee replacement surgery on 6/30. I am healing very fast though (already on the stationary bike), so hopefully that will only be a couple more weeks of recovery. Still, with the new consulting work taking top priority, you may not see a new Repo Commentary for a while.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information. I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!

Holidays or Events (07/28):

• Bagpipe Appreciation Day
• Cross Atlantic Communication Day
• Gary Gygax Day
• National Chicken Finger Day
• National Scotch Day
• National Crème Brulee Day
• National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
• Take Your Pants For a Walk Day
• Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day
• Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval (Canada)
• Fiestas Patrias (Peru)
• Liberation Day (San Marino)
• Olavsoka Eve (Faroe Islands)
• World Hepatitis Day

Some Famous People Born on 07/28 in History:

• 1783-Friedrich Wilhelm von Bismarck, German army officer and writer
• 1887-Marcel Duchamp, French-American journalist and author
• 1901-Rudy Vallee, American actor, singer, and saxophonist
• 1907-Earl Tupper, American inventor and businessman, founded Tupperware Brands
• 1929-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, American journalist and socialite, wife of President John F. Kennedy
• 1943-Bill Bradley, American basketball player and politician
• 1946-Jim Davis, American cartoonist, created Garfield
• 1947-Sally Struthers, American actress
• 1949-Vida Blue, American baseball player and sportscaster
• 1951-Doug Collins, American basketball player and coach
• 1954-President of Venezuela
• 1974=Elizabeth Berkley, American actress

Daily Weird Facts:

Morocco was the first country to recognize the US as an independent country and during the Revolutionary War, the Sultan of Morocco promised safe passage from Barbary Pirates for all merchant American ships traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today, everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.”–anonymous

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24
$58.31/barrel on 9/10
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17
$54.39/barrel on 2/7
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$29.90/barrel on 3/23
$27.43/barrel on 3/27
$24.90/barrel on 4/01
$31.80/barrel on 4/12
$28.31/barrel on 4/17
$20.03/barrel on 4/27
$26.78/barrel on 5/04
$30.39/barrel on 5/09
$35.69/barrel on 5/20
$39.78/barrel on 6/04
$43.37/barrel on 7/27

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has slipped 4 cents in the last week, at $1.82/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24
108.60 on 01/07
109.07 on 01/16
103.18 on 02/03
104.86 on 2/25
103.86 on 5/17
102.59 on 6/18
102.43 on 7/24
101.72 on 9/10
102.16 on 10/02
102.96 on 12/06
104.30 on 01/17/20
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20
101.67 on 03/18/20
104.77 on 03/24/20
102.22 on 04/13/20
102.14 on 04/19/20
101.57 on 04/27/20
106.82 on 05/04/20
100.80 on 05/10/20
102.04 on 05/20/20
103.32 on 06/04/20
100.05 on 07/27/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426
01/07 at $1.1478
01/16 at $1.1396
02/03 at $1.2047
02/25 at $1.1955
05/17 at $1.1761
06/18 at $1.1825
07/24 at $1.1740
09/10 at $1.1623
10/02 at $1.1504
12/06 at $1.1688
01/17 at $1.1721
02/07 at $1.1543
03/11 at $1.1937
03/18 at $1.1575
03/24 at $1.1400
04/13 at $1.1523
04/19 at $1.1394
04/27 at $1.1407
05/04 at $1.0903
05/10 at $1.1402
05/20 at $1.1522
06/04 at $1.1795
07/27 at $1.2314

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655
01/07 at $1.2770
01/16 at $1.2880
02/03 at $1.3758
02/25 at $1.3728
05/17 at $1.3427
06/18 at $1.3157
07/24 at $1.3070
09/10 at $1.2959
10/02 at $1.2882
12/06 at $1.3819
01/17 at $1.3753
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354
03/18 at $1.2665
03/24 at $1.2231
04/13 at $1.3143
04/19 at $1.3058
04/27 at $1.3052
05/04 at $1.2435
05/10 at $1.3005
05/20 at $1.2844
06/04 at $1.3136
07/27 at $1.3458

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24
1.3297 on 01/07
1.3255 on 01/16
1.2492 on 2/03
1.2492 on 2/25
1.2800 on 5/17
1.2740 on 6/18
1.2480 on 7/24
1.2520 on 9/10
1.2560 on 10/02
1.2530 on 12/06
1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07
1.3020 on 03/11
1.3540 on 03/18
1.3690 on 03/24
1.3250 on 04/13
1.3390 on 04/19
1.3350 on 04/27
1.4090 on 05/04
1.3250 on 05/10
1.3250 on 05/20
1.2850 on 06/04
1.2730 on 07/27

The USD has weakened against the Yen and Canadian dollar, but rallied against the British Pound and the Euro.

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce. On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce. On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce. On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce. On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce. On 6/04, it was trading at $1,726.80/ounce. Monday morning, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. The combination of no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic fear, escalating US-China tensions, low-interest rate policies, negative real rates, extremely accommodative monetary policy, enormous amounts of global fiscal spending, and a weak US Dollar, have created the ‘perfect storm’ for Gold. Goldman Sachs says that gold could hit $2000/ounce during the next 12 months, Citgroup is giving it a 30% chance that gold will exceed $2000 by year-end, and Bank of America is predicting gold will reach $3,000 over the next 18 months.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25
$6,350 on 10/5
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,7774.97 on 01/07
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24
$10,183.90 on 09/10
$8,235.46 on 10/02
$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20
$9,793.18 on 02/07/20
$7,871.60 on 03/11/20
$5,216.64 on 03/18/20
$6,728.03 on 03/24/20
$6,646.60 on 03/27/20
$6,443.44 on 03/31/20
$6,908.13 on 04/12/20
$7,128.45 on 04/19/20
$7,748.29 on 04/27/20
$8,775.36 on 05/04/20
$8,771.73 on 05/10/20
$9,525.54 on 05/20/20
$9,794.46 on 06/04/20
$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020. It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split. Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year. In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. This will be the 3rd ‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. Since the halving, Bitcoin has rallied strongly, near the highs at the beginning of the Summer of 2019.

Global Financial News:

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reminds that comments are due regarding the time and cost of filing Bank Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) by financial institutions of Suspicious Transactions. The Metropolitan Government of Tokyo listed its new 5-year USD benchmark bond on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market. ISDA and ISLA have agreed to collaborate on two key initiatives to deliver digital solutions to their respective memberships on CDM framework.

US Market News:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies, corporate profits, and the DJIA.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, however, it appears to have been range-bound between 25,000 and 27,500. Originally, it was due to the shutdowns of COVID-19, then it was due to central banks’ efforts to calm the markets, and now it may be because of political and racial unrest. However, over the last almost 3 months, the DJIA has recovered everything that it lost. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

07/24/20 26,469.89
07/23/20 26,652.33
07/22/20 27,005.84
07/21/20 26,840.40
07/20/20 26,680.87
07/17/20 26,671.95
07/16/20 26,734.71
07/15/20 26,870.10
07/14/20 26,642.59
07/13/20 26,085.80
07/10/20 26,075.30
07/09/20 25,706.09
07/08/20 26,067.28
07/07/20 25,890.18
07/06/20 26,287.03
07/02/20 25,827.36
07/01/20 25,734.97
06/30/20 25,812.88
06/29/20 25,595.80
06/26/20 25,015.55
06/25/20 25,745.60
06/24/20 25,445.94
06/23/20 26,156.10
06/22/20 26,024.96
06/19/20 25,871.46
06/18/20 26,080.10
06/17/20 26,119.61
06/16/20 26,289.98
06/15/20 25,763.16
06/12/20 25,605.54
06/11/20 25,128.17
06/10/20 26,989.99
06/09/20 27,272.30
06/08/20 27,572.44
06/05/20 27,110.98
6/04/20 26,281.82
6/03/20 26,269.89
6/02/20 25,742.65
6/01/20 25,475.02
5/29/20 25,383.11
5/28/20 25,400.64
5/27/20 25,548.27
5/26/20 24,995.11
5/22/20 24,465.16
5/21/20 24,474.12
5/20/20 24,575.90
5/19/20 24,206.86
5/18/20 24,597.37
5/15/20 23,685.42
5/14/20 23,625.34
5/13/20 23,247.57
5/12/20 23,764.76
5/11/20 24,221.99
5/08/20 24,331.32
5/07/20 23,875.89
5/06/20 23,664.64
5/05/20 23,883.09
5/04/20 23,749.76
5/01/20 23,723.69
4/30/20 24,345.72
4/29/20 24,633.86
4/28/20 24,101.55
4/27/20 24,133.78
4/24/20 23,775.27
4/23/20 23,515.26
4/22/20 23,475.82
4/21/20 23,018.88
4/20/20 23,650.44
4/17/20 24,242.49
4/16/20 23,537.68
4/15/20 23,504.35
4/14/20 23,949.76
4/13/20 23,390.77
4/10/20 market closed
4/09/20 23,719.37
4/08/20 23,433.57
4/07/20 22,653.86
4/06/20 22,679.99
4/03/20 21,052.53
4/02/20 21,413.44
4/01/20 20,943.51
3/31/20 21,917.16
3/30/20 22,327.48
3/27/20 21,636.78
3/26/20 22,552.17
3/25/20 21,200.55
3/24/20 20,704.91
3/23/20 18,591.93
3/20/20 19,173.98
3/19/20 20,087.19
3/18/20 19,898.92
3/17/20 21,237.38
3/16/20 20,188.52
3/13/20 23,185.62
3/12/20 21,200.62
3/11/20 23,553.22
3/10/20 25,018.16
3/09/20 23,851.02
3/06/20 25,864.78
3/05/20 26,121.28
3/04/20 27,090.86
3/03/20 25,917.41
3/02/20 26,703.32
2/28/20 25,409.36
2/27/20 25,766.64
2/26/20 26,957.59
2/25/20 27,081.36
2/24/20 27,960.80
2/21/20 28,992.41
2/20/20 29,219.98
2/19/20 29,348.03
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

26,656.77 on 9/20/18
26,447.05 on 10/5/18
21,792.20 on 12/23/18
21,712.53 on 12/26/18
24,207.16 on 01/16/19
25,063.89 on 2/06/19
26,106.47 on 2/25/19
25,862.68 on 5/16/19
26,465.54 on 6/18/19
27,269.97 on 7/24/19
26,793.09 on 9/10/19
26,229.31 on 10/02/19
28,015.06 on 12/06/19
29,348.10 on 01/17/20
29,185.07 on 02/07/20
29,551.42 on 02/12/20 record high
23,553.22 on 03/11/20
21,237.38 on 03/17/20
18,591.93 on 03/23/20
22,552.17 on 03/26/20
21,917.16 on 03/31/20
23,719.37 on 04/09/20
24,242.49 on 04/17/20
24,133.78 on 04/27/20
24,331.32 on 05/08/20
24,206.86 on 05/19/20
26,281.82 on 06/04/20
26,469.99 on 07/24/20

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56
09/10/19 at 2,969.04
10/02/19 at 2,906.94
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
01/17/20 at 3,329.62
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 2,480.64
03/17/20 at 2,529.19
03/23/20 at 2,237.40
03/26/20 at 2,630.07
03/31/20 at 2,584.59
04/09/20 at 2,789.82
04/17/20 at 2,830.88
04/24/20 at 2,854.65
05/08/20 at 2,929.80
05/19/20 at 2,922.35
06/03/20 at 3,130.94
07/24/20 at 3,215.63

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, and is approaching the 2/07/20 all-time high.

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
01/07/19 at 6,823.47
01/16/19 at 7,034.70
02/06/19 at 7,263.87
02/25/19 at 7,561.87
05/16/19 at 7,898.05
06/18/19 at 7,953.68
07/24/19 at 8,321.50
09/10/19 at 8,043.58
10/02/19 at 7,809.22
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
01/17/20 at 9,388.95
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 7,201.80
03/17/20 at 7,334.78
03/23/20 at 6,860.67
03/26/20 at 7,797.54
03/31/20 at 7,700.10
04/09/20 at 8,153.58
04/17/20 at 8,650.14
04/27/20 at 8,730.16
05/08/20 at 9,121.32
05/19/20 at 9,185.10
06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!
07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

The US Treasury curve is about as flat as it gets and yields are at historic lows.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.53%
01/16/19 at 2.55%
02/06/19 at 2.52%
02/22/19 at 2.48%
05/16/19 at 2.20%
06/18/19 at 1.86%
07/24/19 at 1.83%
09/09/19 at 1.58%
10/01/19 at 1.56%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.44%
03/11/20 at 0.50%
03/17/20 at 0.47%
03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.30%
03/31/20 at 0.23%
04/09/20 at 0.23%
04/17/20 at 0.20%
04/27/20 at 0.24%
05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low
05/19/20 at 0.17%
06/03/20 at 0.19%
07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%
12/18/18 at 2.64%
01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)
01/16/19 at 2.53%
02/06/19 at 2.50%
02/22/19 at 2.46%
05/16/19 at 2.15%
06/18/19 at 1.80%
07/24/19 at 1.79%
09/09/19 at 1.52%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.64%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.43%
03/11/20 at 0.58%
03/17/20 at 0.54%
03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.36%
03/31/20 at 0.29%
04/09/20 at 0.29%
04/17/20 at 0.26%
04/27/20 at 0.29%
05/10/20 at 0.21%
05/19/20 at 0.22%
06/03/20 at 0.26%
07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.49%
01/16/19 at 2.54%
02/06/19 at 2.51%
02/22/19 at 2.47%
05/16/19 at 2.18%
06/18/19 at 1.83%
07/24/19 at 1.82%
09/09/19 at 1.49%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
01/17/20 at 1.63%
02/07/20 at 1.45%
03/11/20 at 0.66%
03/17/20 at 0.56%
03/23/20 at 0.38%
03/26/20 at 0.51%
03/31/20 at 0.37%
04/09/20 at 0.41%
04/17/20 at 0.36%
04/27/20 at 0.41%
05/10/20 at 0.33%
05/19/20 at 0.35%
06/03/20 at 0.38%
07/24/20 at 0.27%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
01/07/19 at 2.60%
01/16/19 at 2.62%
02/06/19 at 2.59%
02/22/19 at 2.55%
05/16/19 at 2.28%
06/18/19 at 1.93%
07/24/19 at 1.93%
09/09/19 at 1.57%
10/01/19 at 1.59%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
01/17/20 at 1.74%
02/06/20 at 1.56%
03/11/20 at 0.78%
03/17/20 at 0.91%
03/23/20 at 0.63%
03/26/20 at 0.72%
03/31/20 at 0.55%
04/09/20 at 0.60%
04/17/20 at 0.53%
04/27/20 at 0.56%
05/10/20 at 0.53%
05/19/20 at 0.54%
06/03/20 at 0.59%
07/24/20 at 0.44%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
01/07/19 at 2.70%
01/16/19 at 2.73%
02/06/19 at 2.70%
02/22/19 at 2.65%
05/16/19 at 2.40%
06/18/19 at 2.06%
07/24/19 at 2.05%
09/09/19 at 1.83%
10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!
12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!
01/17/20 at 1.84%
02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!
03/11/20 at 0.82%
03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again
03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again
03/26/20 at 0.83%
03/31/20 at 0.70%
04/09/20 at 0.73%
04/17/20 at 0.65%
04/27/20 at 0.67%
05/10/20 at 0.69%
05/19/20 at 0.70%
06/03/20 at 0.77%
07/24/20 at 0.59%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
01/07/19 at 2.99%
01/16/19 at 3.07%
02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%
05/16/19 at 2.84%
06/18/19 at 2.55%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
10/01/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 at 2.29%
01/17/20 at 2.29%
02/06/20 at 2.11%
03/11/20 at 1.30%
03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!
03/23/20 at 1.33% back down
03/26/20 at 1.42%
03/31/20 at 1.35%
04/09/20 at 1.35%
04/17/20 at 1.27%
04/27/20 at 1.29%
05/10/20 at 1.39%
05/19/20 at 1.43%
06/03/20 at 1.56%
07/24/20 at 1.23%

Housing News:

A report from the Mortgage Bankers Association reveals that the share of mortgage loans in forbearance has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, to 8.18%. The MBA estimates that 4.2 million homeowners are now in forbearance, with 43% of loans in forbearance in an extension following their initial term. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic impacting the US economy, the MBA reported the overall forbearance rate was 0.25%. HUD is abolishing an Obama-era rule related to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). The MBA reports that the Purchase Application of new homes was up 54% year/year, right before this new uptick in COVID-19 cases. Also, recent Pending Home Sales were up 44% month/month. Black Knight is acquiring Optimal Blue in $1.8 billion deal, boosting origination offerings. Realtor.com just launched a new iBuying partnership site to show home sellers all of their options. Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand from buyers pushed Sales of New Homes to a 13-year high in June, according to the Commerce Department. Houses sold at the fastest pac since July 2007. Average US rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell below 3.00% for the first time since collection of the data in 1971. I just saw a 15-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.375%! The months’ supply number, which measures how long it would take to sell off the current inventory, fell to 4.7 months, the lowest in nearly 4 years. The Federal eviction moratorium extension ended this past Saturday.

Repo/Securities Financing News:

For those of you who thought I was semi-retired and those of you that knew I had ghost-written a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. Last week, I agreed to partner with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Securities Finance Academy Repo courses. I will be putting my decades of knowledge to good use and doing something I am passionate about, teaching and speaking about Repo. There was an article about it in yesterday’s ISF/Global Investor online and an article about it in today’s Securities Lending Times.

Securities Lending Times also reports that Broadridge Securities Finance and Collateral Management appointed Pierpoint Financial Consulting as its training provider. Broadridge intends to invest in its associates to enhance their business skills, industry knowledge, and understanding.

I am personally thrilled to see that the 4 huge pension plans (who are all clients of mine—CalPERS, HOOPP, OPERS, and SWIB, alongside sponsorship from eSecLending, Osler,Hoskin&Harcourt LLP, and Credit Benchmark) officially announced their new non-profit trading alliance, Global Peer Financing Association (GPFA), to conduct peer-to-peer trading in securities lending and repo markets. I had been speaking to all of them for years about P2P and had been reporting since the IMN Repo & Beneficial Owners Conference at the beginning of 2020, here in the Repo Commentary, that they were forming this alliance and had held a panel for dozens of other pension funds and some insurance companies at the conference to that end. I am delighted that it is now off the ground and running officially. Obviously, P2P Repo & Lending is a subject near and dear to my heart since 2008, when I created Direct Repo for AVM, LP, and I hope that I will be able to help this organization, in some capacity in the future, gain more acceptance and volume. I believe their first targets for new members are not only other Global Pension Funds, but also Asset Managers, Insurance Companies, Sovereign Wealth Funds, and Central Banks.

I’m sure that you all saw that the RMA has decided to cancel its mid-October 37th annual securities finance and collateral management conference, one of the most attended conferences in our industry, and one that I had attended every single year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference will be held virtually in some form. For those who are fellow Repo dinosaurs, you may remember that it was cancelled once before, shortly after the 9-11 tragedy.

SF reports that Sri Lanka’s Central Bank has entered a $1 billion repo with the US. LCH is reportedly ‘all set’ for Monday’s EU 5 trillion switch. Remember, Tesla’s Elon Musk’s rant about the securities lending market helping people unfairly short Tesla’s stock and ‘causing’ (rather than ‘reflecting’) the company’s financial struggle? That stirred old debates and led to new ESG initiatives. Meanwhile, those who were vilified for shorting the stock have gotten crushed in a ‘short squeeze’. The Hong Kong Exchange has added leveraged products to the exchange.

Bank of Canada has announced new securities repo operations (SROs). It will suspend the current securities lending program to primary dealers. The move is intended to support core funding markets. The SROs will supply a temporary source of Government of Canada bonds and treasury bills to primary dealers, which can then be supplied to cash providers in the repo market. Meanwhile, Bank of Canada has begun winding down its enhanced liquidity provisions (term repo operations and purchasing of bankers acceptances), citing that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial markets “appears to have peaked.”

BlackRock said that it saw record-breaking securities lending revenue, as earnings hit $210 million in Q2, up $52 million from Q1. Northern Trust also reported another increase in securities lending revenue for Q2. Cowen has partnered with n-Tier to complete a successful go-live of its Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) reporting using their Compliance Workbench Platform.

GC Repo rates continue to remain low, despite (as Scott Skyrm points out) US Treasury raising national debt outstanding from $23.5 trillion 4 months ago, to $26.485 trillion now. The spread over this period between Fed Funds and US Treasury GC repo actually ‘contracted’ to 3.8bp. One reason that the huge Treasury issuance didn’t make a dent in the GC repo rates, is because the Fed restarted QE purchases last September, increasing the SOMA portfolio from $3.98 trillion to $6.2 trillion. The second reason is that, as the Money Funds found less US Treasury Repo available from broker/dealers (for a number of reasons), they bought US Treasuries, particularly Treasury Bills outright as their Repo alternative.

The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):

CCPs:

Europe
• Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
• LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
• LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

Asia

• Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.
North America

• OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
• FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
• CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.
ETPs:

Europe

• WeMatch.com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
• HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
• Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
• Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
• Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

North America

• GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
• DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
• AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
• State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
• iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
• GIOA will hold its 16th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
• IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
• Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
• IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
• ISLA will hold its 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
• ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year. I have spoken at this conference before.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton. It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. JUST CANCELLED
• Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
• Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
• Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• Risk.net has yet to announce its 26th annual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
• SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

I was asked by Global Investor Group/ISF Magazine about a month ago to write an article about the Federal Reserve policies and exit strategy for its Americas Securities Finance Guide. That should be coming out soon.

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC. It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers. It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates. Of course, with Fed Funds, repo rates, and outright US Treasury yields trading near 0%, the actual bp differences have decreased, as there are so few bp to play with. My former colleague/partner/boss, Tom Wipf, pointed out today on LinkedIn that Bloomberg now posts a spread adjustment for every LIBOR that is replaced by SOFR, which would be worthwhile following.

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR). The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The Earth remains seismically active, as the atmosphere becomes active for hurricane season.

Earthquakes above 5.0-magnitude, in the last few weeks:

07/26 6.3 South Sandwich Islands
07/22 6.3 Western Xizang
07/22 7.8 Perryville, Alabama
07/17 5.9 iquique, Chile
07/17 7.0 Popondetta, Papua New Guinea
07/06 6.7 Batang, Indonesia
07/03 5.3 la Parguera, Puerto Rico

Weather:

Florida finally broke its pattern of the last 2 weeks of mounting heat and humidity during the day, into the 90s and 80%, leading to massive thunderstorms in the late afternoon. This week, although humidity remains high and heat is still near 90 degrees (so Heat Index is 100 or more), there has been significantly less rain. The rest of the East Coast, even the MidAtlantic to New England, have had hot and very humid conditions. Heat advisories extend from Maine to South Carolina. Critical fire weather conditions exist now in the Interior Northwest and Great Basin.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. It turned out to be the 4th year in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes. It became the 7th year that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. Okay, potential Tropical Cyclone 9 has formed in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Leeward islands. Although it is very early and there are sheering winds to come, Florida is currently in the cone for this one. On Saturday, Hurricane Hanna slammed into South Texas, actually making landfall TWICE as a Category 1 storm. It also brought with it relentless rainfall and tornadoes.

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. CSU says, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. In the Central North Pacific, Tropical Storm Douglas is weakening. As Hurricane Douglas, the first storm in the Pacific this year to become a full-fledged hurricane, it barely missed Hawaii on Monday. There are no tropical cyclones in the Eastern North Pacific at this time.

Sports News:

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months). The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. Then, MLB cancelled its Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony for 7/26. Instead, the plan is to honor the inductees (including Derek Jeter) in July 2021, along with its class of 2021 inductees.

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and has begun a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions. Originally, MLB was going to realign the 30 teams by geographic location and drop the AL and NL distinctions, but settled on just restricting the schedules so that teams only played other teams in their division or geographically close interleague games, dropping games with other divisions in the same league. Each team will play 10 games against each of the other teams in its division, for a total of 40 games. Each team will play 20 Interleague games against the teams in its corresponding geographic division, with 6 of those games against its interleague ‘natural’ rival (typically in same city). I think ‘natural’ rival is a little subjective. All of this will simplify the schedule, reduce the playoff schedule, and drastically reduce the travelling. The games will be played without fans for now, in the teams’ respective home ballparks (rather than in Florida or Arizona). The normal 162-game regular season was scheduled to begin 3/26/20 and last into November. This COVID-19 shortened 60-game season will begin 07/23/20. Ironically, Dr. Fauci will throw out the first pitch at the Opening Day game, as the reigning World Champion Nationals will host the New York Yankees. Only 2 games will be played on 07/23, with the other teams playing on 07/24. Well, it only took 2 days before games had to be cancelled due to the risk of COVID-19 for players. And, this is a sport with little direct contact, unlike football, hockey, and basketball. Apparently, many of the Marlins (14) players tested positive, after playing in Philadelphia, which led to a chain reaction, as the Orioles refused to play the Marlins in Miami and the Yankees refused to play the Phillies in Philadelphia for 2 games so far. So, there are 3 games postponed. This is likely to have a ripple effect on other teams that have to play in both locations or have interactions with the infected team(s). This is only a 60-game season, but it already looks like 60 is an aggressive number. I think the risk is because of the travelling by airplanes and use of hotels. They could have gone the same route as the NBA and limited the number of venues and travel. The regular season will end on 9/27/20. The postseason will follow the usual format, with the two Wild-Card teams in each league meeting for a one-game playoff, and the winners advancing to play the division winners. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. All teams, including the NL teams, will have to use the DH rule. Pitchers will have to face a minimum of 3 batters, and extra innings will start with a runner on second base (kind of like NFL OT starting with teams already on the 25-yard line). Here are the teams in each division:

AL EAST
NY Yankees (rival Mets), Boston Red Sox (rival Phillies), Baltimore Orioles (rival Nationals), Toronto Blue Jays (rival Braves), and Tampa Bay Rays (rival Marlins).

NL EAST
NY Mets (rival Yankees), Washington Nationals (rival Orioles), Philadelphia Phillies (rival Red Sox), Pittsburgh Pirates (rival Tigers), and Miami Marlins (rival Rays).

AL CENTRAL
Chicago White Sox (rival Cubs), Cleveland Indians (rival Reds), Kansas City Royals (rival Cardinals), Minnesota Twins (rival Brewers), and Detroit Tigers (rival Pirates).

NL CENTRAL
Chicago Cubs (rival White Sox), Milwaukee Brewers (rival Twins), St. Louis Cardinals (rival Royals), Cincinnati Reds (rival Indians), and Atlanta Braves (rival Blue Jays).

AL WEST
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (rival Dodgers), Oakland Athletics (rival Giants), Texas Rangers (rival Diamondbacks), Seattle Mariners (rival Padres), and Houston Astros (rival Rockies).

NL WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers (rival Angels), San Francisco Giants (rival A’s), San Diego Padres (rival Mariners), Arizona Diamondbacks (rival Rangers), and Colorado Rockies (rival Astros).

The NCAA College World Series was cancelled. Vanderbilt Commodores were the champs from 2019. The NCAA Women’s College World Series (softball) was also cancelled.

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, in early March, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta. Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. The PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. The USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The PGA Championship is still scheduled for August. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9). The Ryder Cup is being postponed until the Fall. The British Open (Open Championship) has been cancelled for 2020. The 2021 Open will be played at Royal St. George’s next year.

Muirfield Village hosted back-to-back PGA Tour events, and Jack Nicklaus’ course played like two completely different courses. With a little rain the previous week, it played softly and with low scores. This past weekend, with no rain, it played excruciatingly hard, with near-record 13.5 Stimpmeter greens and rock-hard fairways that flung balls into creeks or 6-inch deep rough. Needless to say, the scores were much higher. It was very entertaining, though, because for the first time in 2020, most of the top golfers, including Tiger Woods, were actually playing. It was a close match, until Jon Rahm opened up an 8-stroke lead going into Sunday. But, then, he made it interesting again by going all TIN CUP in front of us and shooting a 10 on a par-5 on the back 9, at one point narrowing his lead to only 3-strokes. But, he held on for the win and became the No.1 ranked golfer in the FedEx Cup. He made No.1 just like his hero fellow Spaniard before him, Seve Ballesteros. This weekend, the PGA Tour travelled to Blaine, MN, for the 3M Open, at TPC Twin Cities, which started Thursday. It was a pretty boring tournament, because few of the upper echelon players played (other than Finau, Schwarzel, DJ (one day)). Michael Thompson won by 2 strokes.

Much has been made about the 40lbs of muscle that fairly new pro Bryson DeChambeau put on during the COVID-19 quarantine, and his subsequent golf swing change and enormous boost in distance for his driver (on average 21 yards), now leading the Tour with an average of 323.8 yards. In the first round at Muirfield, DeChambreau reached the green on a par-4 with a 423-yard drive, which elicited some remarks from architect Jack Nicklaus. It also opened up the debate that Nicklaus started over 40 years ago about how the USGA needs to step in and do something to restrict professional golfers or their equipment. In the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, DeChambeau averaged 350.6 yards per drive during the tournament, the longest average measured driving distance for a winning player in PGA Tour history. Now, they can’t stop someone like DeChambreau from working out more and getting more muscular, as other golfers now do too (Tiger, DJ, Rory, Brooks, etc.). But, club technology and golf ball technology have advanced so quickly and so far, that the average 7400-yard golf course is reduced to an easier course because of the golfers’ shot lengths. Nicklaus said, once again, as an architect, he can’t design courses longer than he does now, as he doesn’t have any more land to work with. He said the USGA should be looking into the ball technology and come up with a plan to use a restricted flight golf ball, much like the Top Golf, driving ranges, and Drive Shacks do for amateurs. To put it all in perspective, I know a Professional Long-Drive Champion and I’ve watched several of their tournaments, and he’s shown me his bizarre swing to generate some 400-yard drives to win championships. It’s a swing he can’t win with on any Tour and it is only possible to keep some balls in play, but now Tour players are actually hitting the ball FURTHER and with more consistency than he can.

No doubt, now that golf is back on TV, and has played 5 tournaments, you’ve noticed that there are NO galleries of spectators. The PGA will start allowing some spectators, starting this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tournament in Memphis. A memo obtained by Golf Digest has the Tour allowing tournament and title sponsors to each have up to 50 guests per day during the tournament and that spouses and significant others of the players would also be allowed on-site during competition. These spectators will not be subject to testing for COVID-19, but will be required to undergo a temperature check and fill out a questionnaire each day. The Tour will decide what rules to apply on a tournament-by-tournament basis in accordance with that state’s local guidelines. In addition, the Tour will allow ‘honorary observers’, 16-two-person groups per day, and virtual player engagement, which will replace Wednesday pro-ams that have been cancelled for the remainder of the season. This ‘virtual player engagement’ would require up to 30 players to participate in duties such as 30-45-minute Q&A. All of this will add about 500 more people on site to each tournament, in addition to about 1,100 players, caddies, volunteers, media and officials currently at tournaments. I personally don’t care one way or the other if there are spectators for golf. I don’t think it impacts watching the sport on TV.

On the Korn Ferry Tour (which is still not rolling off of my tongue, like the dot.Com Tour did before), next week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship will have expanded on-site access for select tournament sponsor representatives and other VIPs, as well as a limited number of honorary observers. Camilo Villegas’ 22-month-old daughter has passed away.

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.

Cheyenne Knight is returning to the site of her first LPGA victory for today’s start of the Texas Women’s Open. She actually had to book a tee time for her practice round on Monday.

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL Draft, which was scheduled for 4/23-4/25 in Las Vegas, was cancelled and held remotely. Training camps are expected to open in late July/early August (but it isn’t a certainty), and teams may play 2-4 or no preseason games (I have always been against preseason games, due to the high incidence of injuries), and the regular season is expected to start on Thursday night, 9/10. QB Cam Newton signed a low-pay one-year contract with the Patriots. Potentially a game-changer, Newton will have to compete with sophomore QB Jarrett Stidham, to replace QB Tom Brady, who has left for Tampa Bay (where he has been joined by TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement). After years of protests, and in light of the current nationwide focus on racial bias, the Washington Redskins have finally decided to do away with the name “Redskins” and logo on their helmets. For now, they will call themselves the “Washington Football Team”. LeBron James took to Twitter to poke fun at the new creative name. If the NFL does allow fans at games, they will be required to wear face coverings. However, the NFL has decided not to require players to wear face shields in their helmets. Meanwhile, as team virtual work continues, there is still no deal between the NFL and NFLPA. Former Steelers Pro Bowl guard Carlton Haselrig has passed away. Chase Young signed his rookie contract with Washington. Jets’ star safety, Jamal Adams, the 6th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, wants to be traded, and has given the Jets a list of 8 teams to which he would prefer to be traded. But, it has been uglier than that, as initially he told team management that he wanted to stay, and they went around his back and shopped him to other teams, and refused to sit down with him to negotiate a contract extension. Not only will this situation potentially set a precedent, but with Tom Brady out of the AFC East, if the Jets deal Adams, they may be sending the wrong signal to their fans. After what we have seen with this COVID-19 pandemic, nothing should be shocking to us. Yet, I am still surprised by some of the unsigned free agents in the NFL. Granted, the NFL might not even play a football game in 2020, but DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Clay Matthews, CB Logan Ryan, and S Tony Jefferson are shockingly still available.

The Canadian Football League’s season was postponed from 6/11 to an unspecified date in July. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the CFL’s defending Grey Cup champions.

The new Vince McMahon-backed XFL, on 3/8, suspended and then cancelled its inaugural season. By mid-April, the league filed for bankruptcy, and currently has no plans to field teams in 2021.

Tennis

The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums. ATP Citi Open in D.C. was cancelled.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held. The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed.

The 2020 X-Games, that were to be held in Minneapolis in July, were cancelled on 4/24 due to COVID-19 (although now they could have been cancelled for another reason).

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

Poker

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin 5/26 in Las Vegas, was pushed back to an unspecified date in the Fall. Although the tournament of thousands of players begins rounds typically in May, the final table doesn’t normally play until November. So, the gap between the preliminaries and the finals will be much less time in 2020.

Fighting

MMA and UFC are back on.

Soccer

All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats. I was just watching the Premiere League yesterday. The MLS season was suspended on 3/12.

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day has already been cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. Ohio State announced this morning that home games will only have 20% attendance (of a facility that holds more than 100,000 fans), no tailgating parties, and face coverings required of all fans before, during, and after the game.

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

1. LSU 13-0
2. Clemson 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Georgia 12-2
5. Oregon 12-2
6. Florida 11-2
7. Oklahoma 12-2
8. Alabama 11-2
9. Penn State 11-2
10. Minnesota 11-2
11. Wisconsin 10-4
12. Notre Dame 11-2
13. Baylor 11-3
14. Auburn 9-4
15. Iowa 10-3
16. Utah 11-3
17. Memphis 12-2
18. Michigan 9-4
19. Appalachian State 13-1
20. Navy 11-2
21. Cincinnati 11-3
22. Air Force 11-2
23. Boise State 12-2
24. UCF 10-3
25. Texas 8-5
Here are the very early 2020-2021 Preseason College Football Rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Ohio State
3. Alabama
4. Georgia
5. Penn State
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Florida
9. Notre Dame
10. Oregon
11. Wisconsin
12. Oklahoma State
13. Texas
14. Texas A&M
15. Auburn
16. UCF
17. USC
18. Iowa State
19. Miami
20. North Carolina
21. Cincinnati
22. Michigan
23. Arizona State
24. Minnesota
25. Tennessee

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA just approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19. One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.

I know this is a little weird, but Gonzaga is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Baylor is No.2, followed by (in order) Villanova, Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Duke, Creighton, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Teams have returned for their first workouts, with masks. Ex-UConn star Robinson, chosen by the Orlando Magic in 2010 Draft, has died at age 32.

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season in 2019-2020:

1. Kansas 28-3
2. Gonzaga 29-2
3. Dayton 29-2
4. FSU 26-5
5. Baylor 26-4
6. San Diego State 30-2
7. Creighton 24-7
8. Kentucky 25-6
9. Michigan State 22-9
10. Duke 25-6
11. Villanova 24-7
12. Maryland 24-7
13. Oregon 24-7
14. Brigham Young 24-7
15. Louisville 24-7
16. Seton Hall 21-9
17. Virginia 23-7
18. Wisconsin 21-10
19. Ohio State 21-10
20. Auburn 25-6
21. Illinois 21-10
22. West Virginia 21-10
23. Houston 23-8
24. Butler 22-9
25. Iowa 20-11

NHL:

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. I love the name from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie franchise!

The puck drops (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams who will play in the modified playoffs are in their 2nd week of training camps. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin on 8/1, with the top 4 teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a 3-game round-robin tournament, and the No.5-12 seeds playing eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the 4 teams from the round-robin. The losers will have a chance at the No.1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase Lottery on 8/10.

Like the NBA, the NHL will not be playing its games at teams’ respective home ice arenas. All Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. All Western Conference games will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

So, the best-of-5 series will be played between:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs
Rangers vs Hurricanes
Panthers vs Islanders
Canadiens vs Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blackhawks vs Oilers
Jets vs Flames
Coyotes vs Predators
Wild vs Canucks

The round-robin tournaments will be played between:
EASTERN CONFERENCE
Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blues, Stars, Golden Knights, and Avalanche

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games will be played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Some coup for ESPN Wide World of Sports/Disney! The top 8 teams in each conference, plus the Blazers, Pelicans, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards (the bubble teams), will compete, starting 7/30. The training camp started 6/30, and all teams would fly to Orlando on 7/7. The tip-off would be 7/31, and a game 7 of this modified playoff format would be on 10/12. Each team will play 8 games before the playoffs would start. Gone, will be the home court advantage. All teams will play on the courts at ESPN Wild World of Sports/ABC/Disney World in Orlando, FL, affectionately being referred to as the “bubble” or safe haven. I originally thought this was an over-hyped idea. But, just observing the problems with the first week of baseball, the team sport with the LEAST physical contact (except the baseball itself), I see that this “bubble” concept may be the only one that works for team sports.

The WNBA season was postponed from mid-May start, although the 2020 WNBA Draft went on as scheduled 4/17.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season was suspended on 2/1. The latest word is that the CBA would restart its season in July.

Marathons

On 5/28, the 124th Boston Marathon announced that the 2020 race, postponed from April (Patriot’s Day) to 9/14, has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held virtually. The virtual part is to reward people who run the marathon with participant t-shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out. Runners, at this time, will NOT be automatically entered into 2021’s race, because they don’t yet know what that race will look like. The Boston Marathon typically brings in more than $200 million to Boston’s economy and raises another $36 million for charities, each year. About 30,000 people usually run the Boston Marathon each year and there are about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile route.

Cycling

The Tour de France was scheduled to begin 6/27, but that date was pushed back until 8/29-9/20. Then, the French government said that no sports events may be held until September, so they will likely have to tweak the start date or cancel the race.

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity. Other horseraces have been held in the past month, but without spectators, like the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby.

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races. The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead. In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic:

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones
2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano
3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman
3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano
3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED
3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED
3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED
4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED
4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED
4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED
5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED
5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED
5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED
5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick
5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin
5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski
5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott
5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski
6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick
6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr.
6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin
6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney
6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick
6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin
7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick
7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott
7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon
7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race
8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled
8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled
8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled
8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled
PLAYOFFS:
9/6 Darlington, Southern 500
9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400
9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400
10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500
10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400
10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400
10/25 Texas, Texas 500
11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race
11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule. The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix. It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20 Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas
7/12/20 Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton
7/19/20 Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton
8/2/20 British GP
8/9/20 70th Anniversary GP
8/15/20 Spanish GP
8/30/20 Belgian GP
9/6/20 Italian GP
9/13/20 Tuscan GP
9/27/20 Russian GP
10/25/20 United States GP (Circuit of the Americas)
11/1/20 Mexican GP
11/15/20 Brazilian GP
11/29/20 Abu Dhabi GP

Meanwhile, in F1 news, McLaren had an F1 reunion with Gulf Oil in new sponsorship deal. Additional races will join the 2020 F1 calendar: Imola, Nurburgring, and Portimao.

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars). In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25
3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED
4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED
4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED
4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED
5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4
5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23
5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED
5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED
6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon
6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED
6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED
7/4 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon
7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon
7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist
7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud
7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden
8/9 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-moved up one week
8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24
8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-originally scheduled for 8/23
9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week
9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-
9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled
10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED
10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race

Travel News:

Oddly, the US finds itself quarantined by other countries at the moment, with no travel allowed to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, or Europe, without a 14-day quarantine of people from the US. As the Northeast former hot-spots for COVID-19 diminish in numbers of new cases, the new hot-spots are Florida, Texas, and California. It’s unclear whether is the first wave or the second wave. But, increases in COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed there and are leading to discussions of re-closing establishments, beaches, etc. For those travelling to Hawaii, now that the hurricane has passed, remember that if you break the 14-day quarantine, you will be arrested. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has added 3 more states to his travel advisory. There are now a total of 34 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. on the travel advisory. Incoming travelers to New York from these states are required to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. Minnesota was one of the 3 states added to the list, which had been removed from the list previously. Dublin Airport Authority said it is losing EU 1 million per day, keeping its airports open, with a 24 million drop in passengers.

Health News:

As of this afternoon (7/28), globally, more than 655,613 people have died from COVID-19. More than 16,553,770 people have been confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. The US has had the most confirmed cases and most deaths, 4,315,889 confirmed and 148,488 deaths. Last we spoke, Brazil moved into second in terms of COVID-19 deaths, now at 87,618, with the UK third with 45,963, Mexico fourth with 44,022, and Italy fifth with 35,123. The head of Germany’s public health agency says people have been “negligent” as COVID-19 infections increase and German officials said they are “very concerned” by the rising cases.

The CDC says that actual COVID-19 infections are up to 13 times higher than reported cases in some US states. The CDC former chief says that states fail to report this data to show that some states are handling the pandemic better than other states. Bloomberg reports that virus spikes may indicate that certain states may need focused closings or re-closings. Other local studies have shown that the death toll in some states and counties have been exaggerated, as “death by COVID-19” has become a common moniker for deaths by unknown causes. With testing delays and surges in the number of cases, some states have found contact tracing impossible. US News & World Reports reported that common diabetes meds are linked to higher odds for a serious complication from COVID-19. A new WebMD poll shows that most people would wait on a COVID-19 vaccine. It is still believed that survivors’ COVID antibodies may be a powerful weapon against the pandemic. There are now people classified as “super spreaders” who can fill a room with the virus. As part of the anti-mask/glove/social distancing movement, many people (particularly younger people) are having COVID-19 parties. Some of them are having attendees pay up-front fees, so that the person who first is diagnosed with COVID-19 wins the pot. This is deeply disturbing. One man attended such a party, in which 35 attendees (including him) came down with COVID-19. Despite still not being a cure for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine is trending again.

As many states begin reopening, refuse to reopen, or begin re-closing, I think about the different sectors of our lives that are impacted, such as the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, travel), healthcare, education, retail, etc. and wonder how they will have to adapt and how different things will look next year. Some things will change until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, assuming that the vaccine can last a long time and that there isn’t a new variety of COVID-19 next year. Some things have changed permanently.

Just thinking today about education, as parents struggle through home-schooling their children, finally hoping that the children will return to official schools to obtain quality and appropriate education from amply qualified, underpaid and under-appreciated teachers. There is no doubt going to be a collective sigh of relief, as schools reopen. But, that issue has yet to be resolved. Some schools will reopen, but some are deciding not to reopen. Some schools will still offer their fine education from those very qualified teachers, while others haven’t decided if they will rely on the parents, who are unqualified to teach, to educate the students. At the heart of the matter is that studies are showing that a large chunk of students are testing positive for COVID-19 and authorities aren’t sure how they are going to ensure that teachers don’t become infected or other students, who didn’t test positive, don’t suddenly get infected. Then there’s the moral issue of ‘forcing’ teachers to return to classrooms and put their lives in jeopardy, which must bring in the longtime discussion of their being underpaid. Surely, now after months of having to figure out curriculums and home-teach their children, parents recognize the incredible value of these teachers. But, what is the right answer? Should these teachers continue to teach, but online only, to keep them away from risk, and how does that impact the education/childhood of the students? Further, if you have the parents continue to educate their children, how do you consistently evaluate the students versus certain goals and requirements for advancement to the next grade or for a diploma? It gets way more complicated for colleges and universities, who are charging enormous tuitions and board for students to not only learn from learned professors and experts in their fields, but also for those students to go through the ‘entire college experience’ (living on their own, developing friendships, developing social skills, learning responsibility, etc.). How are the students going to get that from living alone and taking online classes? Once again, how will you evaluate each student versus some standard for receiving a particular degree? Also, from the institution’s perspective, how will they be able to afford to keep up these sprawling campuses and gorgeous buildings, if they have to charge a discounted price for online learning? There is not a lot of time left, as the back-to-school sales have already begun down here in Florida and colleges will be reporting shortly. Some authorities, unions, institutions, and parents are going to have to look hard at the pros and cons or how to adapt the current educational system. There is also a growing group of parents who are considering continuing home-schooling, even if the public schools in their area open, to reduce their children’s and their potential exposure to COVID-19.

In other health news, many people have been sickened by a parasite found in a bagged/pre-packaged salad. Pilgrim’s Pride Chicken Nuggets have been recalled. Cyclospora outbreak has been linked to bagged salad mixes. Ground beef from one distributor has been recalled over E.coli fear. Diabetes drug Metformin extended-release has been recalled by Apotex, for a possible cancerous chemical. One lot tested by the FDA showed higher NDMA levels than allowed. NDMA was the culprit environmental contaminant that triggered numerous recalls of widely-used heart medicines last year. In water utilities around Georgia, the system for testing lead in water is not working properly, leaving people uninformed and unprotected about this potential threat.

Animal News:

The COVID-19 pandemic helped reset the planet, giving it a break environmentally. Tahlequah, a famous killer whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days while she swam 1,000 miles, is pregnant again. She is part of a community of three pods, made up of some 72 whales. They are frequently encountered off the southern end of Vancouver Island in Canada and in inland waters of Washington State in the US. Authorities now estimate that nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by last year’s Australian wildfires. A new study suggests that the Arctic species of polar bears could disappear by the end of this century, due to melting ice, climate change, and starvation. A 9-year-old Arkansas boy was killed in a dog attack while checking the mail. The Siberian Zoo has seen an animal baby boom during lockdown. Another woman was attacked by a bison at Yellowstone. A rare incident, human death by shark attack, and actually there are 3 to report. A teenage surfer was mauled to death by a shark of the south east coast of Australia on Saturday. The prior Saturday, a 20-year-old scuba diver who was spear-fishing died after he was attacked by a shark off the coast of Australia’s Queensland state. On Monday, this week, authorities in Maine said that a 63-year-old woman from NYC was killed by a great white shark bite off Bailey Island, while she was swimming. It is the first fatal shark attack in Maine’s history. Although she was swimming with her daughter 30-40 feet offshore, her daughter was not hurt. There had previously only been one recorded unprovoked shark attack in Maine, 10 years ago off Eastport, also by a great white shark. Large sharks do prey on seals, which are common off Maine.

Entertainment News:

One of the last major surviving icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Dame Olivia de Havilland, leading actress of her day in 49 feature films from 1935 to 1988, passed away on Monday, at age 104. She was the oldest living Academy Award winner. She also was successful in work on stage and television. De Havilland is best known for her role in GONE WITH THE WIND, a long, successful legal battle with Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, a long loving friendship with actor Errol Flynn, romantic relationships with Howard Hughes and Jimmy Stewart, and a lifelong feud with her sister Joan Fontaine. She and her sister are the only siblings to have won any Academy Awards. On Friday, iconic television personality, Regis Philbin, died of natural causes at age 88. Philbin became famous and endearing to television audiences in 1985, with his The Morning Show on WABC-TV, with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, which in 1988 became the nationally broadcast Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. The show was a massive hit and set the bar for all morning shows to come. Gifford eventually left Live! In July 2000 to join Today Show’s 4th hour with Hoda Kotb, replaced by Kelly Ripa. Eventually, Philbin left Live! in November 2011, after having won a Daytime Emmy Award and setting a Guinness World Record for “Most Hours on Camera”, replaced by Ryan Seacrest. During is also well-known for his hosting the popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which won him a Daytime Emmy Award. Philbin and his wife, Joy, lived in my building in Manhattan (or I lived in their building), so I would run into them in the lobby many times. Royana Black, Broadway and RAISING MIRANDA star, has died of leukemia at age 47.

38-year-old singer, Britney Spears, says she’s “demanding attention” with full-body henna bikini picture. Chris Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky, had to climb out of her car window, after being stuck in a flood. The 72nd Emmy Awards nominations ceremony begins today, 7/28. Mick Jagger, Lorde, Lionel Richie, Sia, Sheryl Crow, and others are urging politicians not to use their music without permission for political rallies, in an open letter. A new biography has come out, detailing the dwindling relationship between Prince Andrew & Kate Middleton with Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. I thought one line was particularly strange, attributed to Markle that she gave up everything to be a part of the royal family and was shunned, but her public actions (to me) showed her actually tearing Prince Harry away from the royal family and having him give up everything for her Hollywood dreams and life. NY Governor Cuomo announced an investigation following the “illegal and reckless” Chainsmokers’ ‘Drive-In’ concert, that he claims had “egregious social distancing violations.” Presidential candidate, Kanye West, known to be on medication for bi-polarism, has been unraveling publicly on the campaign trail, and has several friends and family rushing to his aid. After saying some hurtful things about his wife, Kim Kardashian, and their daughter West, and then breaking down on stage, people have been visiting him at their Wyoming Ranch to console him. Kim just flew out there to have an “extremely emotional” visit with him. The reality TV star, Charlie Balducci, from MTV’s True Life, was found dead in his home in New York, Saturday, at age 44. Music mogul Dr. Dre has taken a knee with Colin Kaepernick. Ellen DeGeneres Show workplace is now under investigation by WarnerMedia, with a third-party firm reportedly asking current and former employees about their experiences working on the show, amidst workplace misconduct allegations that appeared on BuzzFeed news. Katy Perry pushed back “Smile” album release dur to ‘unavoidable production delays’. One of the least-kept secrets has finally broken, that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been having marital trouble for some time. However, the smoke from this distant fire turned out not to be because of Will Smith, as assumed, but actually because of an agreed upon ‘open marriage’, which wound up with a serious relationship for Jada and another man. I still don’t understand the TV show of secrets around the red table, but this has got to be a difficult topic to discuss nationwide. Michael Kopech filed for divorce from Vanessa Morgan weeks before pregnancy announcement. Lori Loughlin turns 56 on Tuesday, less than a month before sentencing. Dancing With the Stars plans to begin production for Season 29 in September. The first confirmed contestant is Bachelorette alum Kaitlyn Bristowe.

Here, so far, are the top 2020 movies by Global box-office, which ended its tallies abruptly in March with COVID-19 (and no, I still haven’t seen any of them):

1. BAD BOYS FOR LIFE $419.1 million
2. SONIC THE HEDGHOG $306.8 million
3. DOLITTLE $224.8 million
4. BIRDS OF PREY $201.9 million
5. THE INVISIBLE MAN $128.3 million
6. ONWARD $108.5 million
7. THE CALL OF THE WILD $107.6 million
8. FANTASY ISLAND $47.3 million
9. UNDERWATER $40.9 million
10. THE MAN STANDING NEXT $34.7 million

Technology & Space News:

A security breach in the administration system of Twitter resulted in many prominent accounts promoting a Bitcoin scam. Comet NEOWISE is visible to the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, is the only tech CEO appearing tomorrow in front of Congress, and is the only tech CEO who hasn’t yet sat before a public hearing in Congress. Twitter temporarily has limited Donald Trump Jr.’s account over COVID-19 video. Amazon is now selling to the public its in-house-designed face shield. If you are wondering why, early on, banks began requiring people to make appointments to meet inside, or otherwise conduct all their banking at the drive-in windows, a new study shows that face masks are thwarting even the best facial recognition algorithms. Scientists are looking at a self-replicating Chernobyl mold to potentially protect the International Space Station from space radiation. Science has finally identified an ancient enzyme that makes body odor so pungent. Scientists think a binary star system may have had a dramatic split or supernova, sending an exploding star speeding across the Milky Way. Facebook and Instagram said it will look more closely at potential racial bias on its platforms and are creating new teams to tackle this issue.

US News:

The US election is now within 100 days. Extended unemployment benefits of $600 billion will end at the end of the week. The Federal eviction moratorium extension also ended on Saturday (in all but New York). There may be waves of evictions coming. The government is finalizing the HEROES Act for an addition check to taxpayers. It has surprised me at how difficult it has been for legislators to agree on the details of this second stimulus for Americans. According to Reuters, on Monday, Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion Coronavirus aid package that they hammered out with the White House, to now be discussed with Democrats, which would slash the emergency unemployment benefit (which expires this week) of $600/week to $200/week, focus on getting children back to school (which I think is nuts, since in a recent survey, 1/3 of children tested were found to HAVE COVID-19), getting employees back to work and protecting corporations from lawsuits. The Republican plan sparked immediate opposition from Democrats, who had proposed a $3 trillion plan that passed the House of Representatives in May.

A Federal Appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees a right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, finding that Hawaii overstepped its authority to regulate firearms possession outside the home. This San Francisco-based court became the sixth US Circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment that way and could set the issue on a path to the US Supreme Court, which has not looked at a major gun rights case since 2010. The same Circuit Court ruled in 2016 that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public in a case originating in Southern California. The states with the most restrictive laws on openly carrying firearms are California, Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to up (including later adjustments):

• 3/21 3,307,000
• 3/28 6,867,000 highest reading in history
• 4/04 6,615,000
• 4/11 5,237,000
• 4/18 4,442,000
• 4/25 3,867,000
• 5/02 3,176,000
• 5/09 2,687,000
• Unemployment Rate was 15.7% for the week ending 5/02, the highest rate since the Great Depression
• 5/16 2,446,000
• 5/23 2,123,000
• 5/30 1,897,000
• 6/06 1,566,000 12-week total increase of 44,230,000
• 6/13 1,540,000
• 6/20 1,482,000
• 6/27 1,408,000
• 7/04 1,310,000
• 7/11 1,300,000
• 7/18 1,416,000 first uptick since 3/28/20

Maybe, a more important figure is in a survey by the Census Bureau, which shows that 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

As you can see, in this Repo Commentary, and typical of my writing, I’m not going to go too far into reporting on all the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown protests, COVID-19 parties, Black Lives Matter protests, police defunding, statue teardowns and defacements, the political battle for President, and dramatically increased urban violence and overall lawlessness. All of these issues have become increasingly polarizing, some of them just coincidentally at the same time. Some issues politicians and community leaders thought they had dealt with before, but clearly were not resolved. Some have come to a head because of other issues, like police brutality highlighted due to racial tension AND due to the government’s reaction to the pandemic with some strict ordinances, curfews, and suspension of citizens’ rights. Of course, it all gets confusing with some factions going to far, or some factions over-reacting too far, or some factions sitting in wait to cause trouble, anarchy, and crime under the cover of real issues. In its totality, across many related and unrelated issues, justified and unjustified, the citizen unrest is worse than ever before in this country. It is now a ‘perfect storm’. Sadly, that means that some issues, which are really important and should be dealt with, will probably get swept up in the overall chaos and not given their fair light, discussion, and solutions.

A 3D hologram image of George Floyd, who died in May after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, will work its way through the US South this week, temporarily replacing former Confederate statues as a symbolic call for racial justice and solidarity. The officer was fired and has been charged with murder.

The body of the late US civil rights icon, John Lewis, was carried over Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time, symbolizing the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march that Lewis and other civil rights leaders made peacefully across the bridge before being attacked by Alabama police officers.

Attorney General Barr is defending deploying Federal agents to Portland, accusing “rioters” of committing “an assault on the government of the United States.”

Bankruptcy News:

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings continue to surge. Now, 30 companies, each with over $1 billion in assets, have filed for bankruptcy protection.

International News:

A series of attacks over disputed farmland in Darfur, Sudan, left more than 80 people dead and several villages destroyed. At least 16 people have been killed in border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Huawei employees will be hit with US visa restrictions, due to human rights abuses. Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, has been cleared after corruption probe. A postcard helped researchers locate the probably spot near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, believed to be the location of Van Gogh’s last painting. A female lecturer jailed in Iran has been moved to a remote prison. Malaysia’s ex-PM has been given a 12-year sentence for corruption. Delhi, India’s mask-averse shoppers are worrying officials.

Florida:

Gov. DeSantis announced that Florida would enter full Phase 1 on Monday, 5/18. He allowed for gyms and fitness centers to be open, beaches to be open, and retail stores and restaurants up to 50% capacity. On 6/3, Gov. DeSantis said that all counties, except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, could move to Phase 2, which will include opening Bars and Nightclubs to 50% capacity (and 100% capacity outdoors), movie theaters (to 50% capacity), bowling alleys, and theaters (to 50% capacity). When I wrote that in the 6/4 Repo Commentary, Gov. DeSantis was being praised for his COVID-19 handling of Florida, including the 14-day quarantine he imposed on visitors from Louisiana, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Boy, has that changed since then!

Record-numbers of increases in daily cases of COVID-19 over 10,000/day in Florida, the over-crowding of beaches, the flaunting of rules regarding bars & restaurants, and the absurd practice of COVID-19 parties (in which everyone puts money in a pot and congregate outdoors in a large group and the first to contract COVID-19 wins the pot), has caused a major reversal in Florida and the nation’s sentiment towards the State. Now, New York is requiring visiting Floridians to be quarantined for 14 days, and Gov. DeSantis has had to scale back Phases in many counties and curfews have been imposed in hot-spot cities. As the Governor contemplated reopening schools, it was determined that more than 1/3 of school children tested for COVID-19 tested positive.

I am usually singing in Palm Beach County, FL, at least somewhere. My National Anthems for MLB came to an abrupt halt in mid-Spring Training, due to the pandemic lockdown. I still did some charity singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, but mostly just drive-ups in parking lots at restaurants. I will be doing more solo gigs as Elvis Presley ETA, and had already begun singing on friends’ gigs. I decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from my harmony group (after 12 years). I will be expanding my songs to other artists, besides Elvis (Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Josh Turner, Sinatra, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, etc.). However, given my knee surgery and asthma that now put me in a high-risk category for COVID-19, I am happy that I have not yet been doing any gigs. Frankly, the restaurants are hurting so much that few can afford to hire entertainers.

Here are the upcoming scheduled concerts, still subject to change due to COVID-19, in South Florida:

07/07 Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett-Miami
07/09 Chris Botti-Fort Lauderdale
07/18 The Weeknd-Miami
07/29 Boz Scaggs-Fort Lauderdale
08/01 Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach
08/18 John Legend-Sunrise
09/03 Brad Paisley-West Palm Beach
09/26 Backstreet Boys-West Palm Beach
12/05 Cher-Miami
12/20 Andrea Bocelli-Miami

Jokes and Such:

I’m so old that I remember when this ‘#’ was a “tic tac toe” sign, before it was a “number” sign, before it was a “pound” sign, and before it became a “hashtag”. I remember searching for the dot “.” On my computer to type “.com”.

My uncle was in the furniture-making business, he died after accidentally drinking furniture varnish. It was a slow death, but a great finish.

Repo Commentary-06/04/20

IMG_6932IMG_6937IMG_6957IMG_6947IMG_6948IMG_6949IMG_6951IMG_6954IMG_6955IMG_6959IMG_6962IMG_6968IMG_6969IMG_6970IMG_6971IMG_6972IMG_6973IMG_6974IMG_6975IMG_6976IMG_6977IMG_6978IMG_6979IMG_6988IMG_6989IMG_6993IMG_6994IMG_6999IMG_6997IMG_7001IMG_7007IMG_7008IMG_7013

It is Day 86 (on 6/4) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). I may have to stop this count soon, though, as all states have reopened, at least in differing degrees.

 

 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

 

 

I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am working with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. Many of you know about my baseball and hockey exploits, particularly all the injuries. I will finally be addressing one that has hampered me since 2009, my left knee, which will be replaced on 6/30/20. So, I may be a little incapacitated for a couple of weeks after that, unfortunately during my birthday.  

 

 

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week. I may get a little squirrelly on that front relatively soon, as I finally, after 11 years, have been told that I require full knee replacement in the left knee on 6/30. Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water…

 

 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (06/04):

 

 

  • Audacity To Hope Day
  • Hug Your Cat Day
  • International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression
  • International (World) Hug Your Cat Day
  • National SAFE Day
  • Old Maid’s Day
  • National Moonshine Day
  • National Cognac Day
  • Shopping Cart Day
  • National Cheese Day
  • Mom’s Equal Pay Day
  • Emancipation Day in Tonga
  • Flag Day in Estonia
  • National Unity Day in Hungary
  • Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 Memorial Day

06/05 is National Donut Day!

 

 

Some Famous People Born on 06/04 in History:

 

 

  • 1394-Philippa of England, Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden
  • 1738-George III of the United Kingdom
  • 1744-Patrick Ferguson, Scottish soldier, designed the Ferguson rifle
  • 1917-Robert Merrill-American actor and singer
  • 1924-Dennis Weaver-American actor and director
  • 1936-Vince Camuto-American fashion designer and businessman, co-founded Nine West
  • 1936-Bruce Dern, American actor
  • 1937-Freddy Fender, American singer and guitarist
  • 1937-Mortimer Zuckerman, Canadian-American businessman and publisher, founded Boston Properties
  • 1944-Michelle Phillips, American singer-songwriter and actress
  • 1953-Jimmy McCulloch, Scottish musician and songwriter (Wings)
  • 1961-El DeBarge, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1963-Jim Lachey, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1975-Russell Brand, English comedian and actor
  • 1975-Angelina Jolie, American actress, filmmaker, humanitarian, and activist

 

Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone.

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”—Benjamin Franklin

 

 

 

 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

 

Oil prices closed at:

 

$74.34/barrel on 10/5

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

 

 

 

 

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The Russian-OPEC agreement and US support of oil prices have finally had their impact. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has been unchanged in the last week, at $1.86/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

 

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

 

 

The USD has weakened against most major currencies over the past week.

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce. On 6/04, it was trading at $1,726.80/ounce.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. Now, it has rallied sharply in the last few weeks, leading to its impending ‘halving event’. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split.  Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year.  In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867.  This will be the 3rd‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. There were strong rallies prior to the other two ‘halvings’ as well. ‘Halving’ refers to a programmed-in event in Bitcoin’s code, which reduces the reward per block mined by 50% every 4 years to control inflation. Following the halving, rewards issued will drop to 6.25 BTC from the current 12.5 BTC. I’ve heard the promotional material that halving events create lesser supply (half the payment for miners, so less supply of coins) and increase the media attention on Bitcoin and could lead to a rally. But, the charts from the previous halvings have shown more of a sideways move, even a drop in prices for one, and months later, a rally. You know, being a huge stochastics fan my entire career, I have always felt, naively, that any market, at any time, is operating in a pattern either predictable by stochastics or as the result of changing fundamentals. Except Bitcoin. I have not been able to recognize the stochastic patterns easily or correlated the fundamentals with market reaction. So, that’s what I reported in the 5/11 Repo Commentary, but instead, Bitcoin has rocketed higher, after the halving. In fact, it has already tested the $10,000 level three times by 5/20.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

The Financial Times reported (finally, someone reported) that the sudden and sweeping changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to how bank traders conduct business has revealed how successfully traders can operate outside traditional, one location/metropolitan trading desks. This is on top of the success many firms are seeing with remote Sales from home, using Zoom or Team conference calls. Yet, major banks have begun planning the safest way to disperse staff in an eventual phased return to the offices. However, part of the plan may include reducing the head count at main offices and redeploying staff to statellite offices. Reuters reports that banks in the US have issued $3.4 billion in leveraged loans this past month for M&A activity (acquisition financing). Talent management company Cornerstone OnDemand is raising roughly $1 billion to support its acquisition of Saba Software. Technology firm Xperi is looking for $1.1 billion to back its merger with peer TiVo Corp. Deutsche Bank’s chairman will step down in 2022. Energy company Apergy is looking for $537 million loans to support its merger with Ecolab’s Nalco Champion. Broadband infrastructure Zipyl Fiber is completing at $791 million loan to back its acquisition by a group of investors led by Searchlight Capital Partners, according to Reuters. The US Senate has passed a bill that would impose requirements on Chinese companies, which could lead to their delisting on US stock exchanges and could prohibit the firms from raising money from US investors. The bill includes requirements that Chinese firms show they are not owned by a foreign government and that they undergo an audit reviewable by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. FINRA said that SEC’s Reg Best Interest largely replaces FINRA’s Suitability Rule, but that there are exceptions. It does not address variable annuities and options, for instance. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has finalized a rule to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act that applies only to national banks, after other regulations had not supported the rule. CFTC is updating its misconduct penalty guidelines for members. A crisis expert has been appointed as World Bank’s Chief Economist. ESMA is asking firms for transparency in their half-year reports.

 

 

US Market News:

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets, particularly the various business shutdowns and furloughs associated with it. Now, we are also contending with a nationwide public outrage over police brutality in Minneapolis, kind of a continuation of human rights being stripped from us all, which is beginning to impact the economy as well.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, Originally, it was due to the shutdowns of COVID-19, then it was due to central banks’ efforts to calm the markets, and now it may be because of political and racial unrest. However, over the last almost 3 months, the DJIA has recovered everything that it lost. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):

 

 

 

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20    24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

24,242.49 on 04/17/20

24,133.78 on 04/27/20

24,331.32 on 05/08/20

24,206.86 on 05/19/20

26,281.82 on 06/04/20

 

 

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

 

 

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, and is approaching the 2/07/20 all-time high.

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

 

 

The appetite was strong for the first 20-year US Treasury bond in 3 decades (1986)!  I was four years in the industry when that happened, that’s how long ago it was, lol! The yield was 1.22%, an advantageous interest rate for the US Government. It’s sort of like they took advantage of low interest rates (that ‘they’ created) to ‘refinance’ some of the $22 trillion in debt that ‘they’ have outstanding. That is something that homeowners, investors, and financial institutions have been doing all the time, with their own money. Now, if they could only pay that interest and principal back when USD are less valuable against other currencies, it would be a win-win…wait, the USD is less valuable against other currencies lately. Languishing Treasury yields over the last 8 weeks may have been a signal that there is diminishing economic confidence in the market and an expectation that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates this low for an extended period of time. I don’t want to plagiarize myself from an upcoming article on the Fed, so I’ll just leave it at that for now. At least, the yields have ticked up slightly this week.

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

Reuters reported, when I wrote last Repo Commentary, that about 4.1 million US borrowers have had their mortgage payments reduced or put on hold, due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that the pace of requests is marginally slowing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Mortgages in Forbearance rose to 8.16% (from 7.91%) between 5/4 and 5/10, representing the smallest weekly increase since March. Today, the National Association of Realtors released Existing Home Sales for April, and it wasn’t pretty. The overall figure was down 17.8%! Each of the 4 regions experienced a sharp decline in month/month and year/year sales. The West region was hit the hardest. Yet, home prices remain strong. There is something that reminds me of LIBOR in that release, the price is still strong, even though not much actually traded there.

 

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac intend to hire financial advisers to help them emerge from US Government conservatorship. These advisers will be tasked with developing strategies for recapitalization and updating their business plans. The FHFA has issued a proposal that FNMA and FHLMC should hold a combined $240 billion as a buffer against losses. One official snarkily said that if the GSEs had been under a similar obligation before the Financial Crisis, they would not have encountered such difficulties.

 

According to Black Knight, delinquencies on US home loans soared 90% or 1.6 million in April, the largest monthly gain on record. This new high is influenced, however, by the US government’s relief initiatives, which include forbearances for about 4.7 million borrowers on 5/12.

 

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

 

“Et tu, Repo?” GC repo rates continue to confound and now frustrate the Federal Reserve, after dropping with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range, despite plenty of liquidity around, and now hitting 0.00% again on Wednesday, despite the Fed’s efforts and Chair Powell’s remarks to stop a policy of negative rates. The issue seems to be getting larger for the Fed, as the ECB is showing no signs of abandoning its negative rate monetary policy, and BOE is increasingly split on its course of monetary policy. The UK even sold its first bond ever with a negative yield on Wednesday. Germans have had negative interest rates for a while, and it doesn’t mean that people are paid up front to borrow money. They simply have to pay less back than what they borrowed, in the end.  Even term GC rates continued to drop this week. With QE purchases winding down (now ‘only’ $4.5 billion in MBS outright per day) and issuance increasing, many thought that repo rates would move higher to at least the mid-target area. It looks like the new issuance is being absorbed easily by the market. Maybe there are other factors at play in the Repo market, although we saw the same things happen to the derivatives market last month.

 

 

Finadium just put out a report in Securities Finance Monitor about the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues and the industry’s varied responses. This includes regulatory limiting of short-selling and impact on securities lending participants.

 

 

 

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in two of the last three FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day. That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hits $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed is getting ready to roll out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies.

 

The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo.Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

ETPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

 

 

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates.  

 

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.

 

 

I didn’t add much to this section in this Repo Commentary, as I am working on a larger article about the Fed for another publication, due out shortly. I hate getting my peanut butter in my chocolate (except for food), so I’m going to refrain from commenting much on Fed policy here, so that the article will be fresh information and tantalizing dialogue, that you haven’t read already, as a savvy Repo Commentary reader.

 

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

The Earth remains seismically active, as the atmosphere becomes active for hurricane season.

 

Earthquakes above 5.0-magnitude, in the last few days:

 

06/04 5.0 Kota Ternate, Indonesia

06/04 5.1 Port-Vila, Vanuatu

06/04 6.4 Tobelo, Indonesia

06/04 5.5 Searles Valley, CA

06/03 5.9 Fiji Islands

06/03 5.2 Ierapetra, Greece

06/03 6.8 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

06/02 5.1 Isangel, Vanuatu

06/02 5.0 Grytviken, South Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

 

West Palm Beach, FL has, on average, 136 days of rain per year, which amounts to about 62.3 inches of rain. In June, the average high temp in West Palm Beach is 88 degrees and the average rainfall is 8.30”. in the last 5 months, we have received 17.10” of rain already. Typically, June has 15.3 days of rain, whereas May has 9.7 days of rain, in West Palm Beach, however, it has actually been raining here for 14 of the last 17 days and is expected to rain for the next 7 days.  Yesterday, Palm Beach County received one month of rain. So, you’ll understand some of the picture gallery above. They are forecasting massive rains in Central America.

 

 

On 5/20, two aging, crumbling dams in Edenville, MI and Sanford, MI flooded and gave way, endangering thousands of residents downstream in Midland. The people were evacuated. Federal regulators had actually seen this coming, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has long-warned the owners of the dams to increase capacity of the Edenville dam’s spillways to prevent a flood, going back as far as 1999. The agency issued another warning in 2004, when the ownership changed hands, and another in 2017, when it declared the dam to be a “high hazard”. In 2018, the FERC revoked Boyce Hydro’s license, leading to years of litigation. Part of the stall was that Boyce Hydro was planning to sell the system (including the dam) to a regional authority in 2022 for $9.4 million, and the cost of improving the dams was expected to be $100 million. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that 82 of its 88 dams it oversees were approaching or past 50-years-old, the average engineered lifespan for a dam. The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report in 2009, stating that more than 90% of Michigan’s nearly 2,600 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020.

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1stand ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.Okay, this week the third named Tropical Storm, Cristobal, formed in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula, and is now bearing down on Louisiana on Monday.  The season is already active.

 

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. CSU says, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. There are no tropical cyclones expected in the Central Pacific or Eastern Pacific in the next 5 days. India’s financial capital of Mumbai narrowly escaped Cyclone Nisarga, as nearby areas bore the full brunt.

 

 

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. Then, MLB cancelled its Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony for 7/26. Instead, the plan is to honor the inductees (including Derek Jeter) in July 2021, along with its class of 2021 inductees.

 

 

On 4/29, USA Today reported that MLB was discussing a plan to start the regular season in late June, no later than 7/2, playing at home stadiums, but with realigned league. Three executives said that they plan to play at least 100 regular season games. But, there would be no fans in their stadiums, and it would likely be a 3-division, 10-team plan, in which teams play only within their division. This would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign teams based on geography, which was the original intent. The players seem to like the idea, as they could still play in their home ballparks and not have to travel as much. The players were opposed to playing the entire season in Arizona/Florida/Texas. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. This is what USA Today was thinking was likely:

 

EAST

NY Yankees, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins

 

WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners

 

CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers

 

MLB is considering how the 30 teams could refund COVID-19 postponements. As for not having fans in the seats, MLB and union officials are discussing the ramifications of not having fans, ticket sales, and concession revenue. Last season, MLB attendance was 68.5 million and the average ticket price was $53. Several teams want significant pay cuts for players, to play a shortened season. There is division about how the revenue-sharing should be split, from the lucrative TV contracts. MLB’s revenue was $10.7 billion in 2019, mostly due to its TV deal. Since I wrote in the last Repo Commentary, the two sides are further apart now, in restarting the MLB season. In fact, the disagreement about revenue-sharing and cutting players’ contracts back, has become more heated and is endangering this team sport from even having a season in 2020.

 

 

The Korean Baseball Organization season start was postponed in March, due to COVID-19, but by the end of the month, teams were playing with masks on, but no spectators. The league finally began its season on 5/5. I have actually seen parts of 2 games, which is 2 games more than I have ever watched before.

 

 

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB) postponed its baseball season, which was due to start on 3/20, and now is looking to start in June.

 

 

The NCAA College World Series was cancelled.  Vanderbilt Commodores were the champs from 2019. The NCAA Women’s College World Series (softball) was also cancelled.

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.

 

 

Golf:

 

 

The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.  Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. On Friday, the PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. On Monday, the USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The PGA Championship is still scheduled for August. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9). The Ryder Cup is being postponed until the Fall. Muirfield Village will host back-to-back PGA Tour events.

 

 

Last week’s charity golf tournament on Sunday between Matt Wolfe/Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy (current World No.1)/Dustin Johnson, at ultra-private Seminole Golf Club, home course of Ben Hogan (and now member, Tom Brady), which was won by McIlroy/DJ on a tiebreaker 19thhole, raised $4 million for COVID-19 relief and drew 2.35 million sports-starved TV viewers. As entertaining as that tourney was, another live tourney was held this past weekend in nearby Hobe Sound, at Tiger Wood’s own newly constructed ultra-private golf course.  This charity tournament raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief and was a very entertaining match-play event between Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning and Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady. It was billed as the rematch of last year’s $10 million duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, won by Mickelson in a boring 4-hour event, in which the microphoned players rarely talked.  This time around, with the addition of the 2 colorful legendary QBs, plus many Tweets, bets, and challenges from commentators and other professional athletes, the tournament was a blast to watch. In the end, Tiger and Peyton held off a late charge by Mickelson and Brady. All players were microphoned and provided a lot of banter and golf instruction.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.

 

Cheyenne Knight is returning to the site of her first LPGA victory for today’s start of the Texas Women’s Open. She actually had to book a tee time for her practice round on Monday.

 

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL Draft, which was scheduled for 4/23-4/25 in Las Vegas, was cancelled and held remotely. An Indianapolis infectious disease doctor has voiced significant doubts about having an NFL season this year. However, NBC News quotes direct sources who say that ongoing pandemic has created only an “extremely small” chance that there will be no NFL season in 2020. According to NFL personnel, the biggest impediment to playing football would be the availability of adequate testing, both for players/staff and the general public. But, it is expected that testing will be prevalent by August and expected to be simple, with a quick turnaround time. This is one of the few team sports that believes it will open up the season with fans IN the seats. The NFL is also the one team sport that puts a lot more weight on the unfair advantages and disadvantages of fans in home stadiums. So, not having fans would have a much greater impact on NFL outcomes, as opposed to NHL, NBA, or MLB. I don’t know if I agree with that. I think that is true for NCAA team sports though. The NFL also recognizes that ‘social distancing’ will be impossible for fans in a stadium. All of this does not mean that training camps will necessarily open in late July/early August and that the regular season will start precisely on Thursday night, 9/10. QB Cam Newton has still not been signed by anyone.

 

 

The Canadian Football League’s season was postponed from 6/11 to an unspecified date in July. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the CFL’s defending Grey Cup champions.

 

 

The new Vince McMahon-backed XFL, on 3/8, suspended and then cancelled its inaugural season. By mid-April, the league filed for bankruptcy, and currently has no plans to field teams in 2021.

 

 

Tennis

 

 

The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134thWimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums.

 

 

 

Olympics

 

 

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed.

 

 

The 2020 X-Games, that were to be held in Minneapolis in July, were cancelled on 4/24 due to COVID-19 (although now they could have been cancelled for another reason).

 

 

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

 

Poker

 

 

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin 5/26 in Las Vegas, was pushed back to an unspecified date in the Fall. Although the tournament of thousands of players begins rounds typically in May, the final table doesn’t normally play until November. So, the gap between the preliminaries and the finals will be much less time in 2020.

 

 

Fighting

 

MMA and UFC are back on. Unlike most pro sports that shut down, UFC kept fighting on until 3/14, when they finally suspended because of COVID-19. However, they restarted on 5/9 with UFC 249, and have been fighting fanless fights since. CBS had reported that Mike Tyson (53) and Evander Holyfield (57) were working out the details of Tyson vs Holyfield III! They are both in tremendous shape and want to stage a 4-round charity exhibition fight (kind of like the end of Rocky III). Holyfield won the first fight between the two in November 1996. In the rematch, in June 1997, Tyson was disqualified after biting both of Holyfield’s ears in the fight, taking a big chunk out of one of them. Both of them have been separately talking about returning to the ring for short charity exhibition bouts, but now are intrigued about fighting each other again. Tyson had said that he would only return to fight against a “real boxer”, after turning down $3 million to fight New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams. Holyfield absolutely wants to fight Tyson, calling the potential fight a “win-win-win”, although he is even more interested in fighting Riddick Bowe, another old rival. I don’t know what the 3 “wins” are either. With both Tyson and Holyfield in their 50s, it may be unsafe for either of them to be on the receiving end of punches. Neither of them ended their careers well, with Holyfield hanging on to try to get one last heavyweight championship and failing, while Tyson finished with losses to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. I think it’s risky for them to do, although it would be a huge audience draw and would likely have a lot of action. After all of that, it appears that Tyson changed his mind about only fighting a real boxer, and has now agreed to a fight with former UFC champ, Tito Ortiz, instead of Holyfield.

 

 

Soccer

 

 

All leagues are now discussing when to reopen and whether to have fans in the seats. Germany’s Bundesliga resumed soccer games 5/16, as Bayern Munich beat Werder Bremen 4-1. Irish Premier and AFC Champions League, and Ugandan Super League have yet to restart.  Costa Rican Primera Division Clausura has restarted. The games will be played in empty stadiums, which could influence the results, as the home team won’t have the advantage of its cheering fans. However, research shows that it has less effect on the players and a raucous crowd influences the referees more. The MLS season was suspended on 3/12.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2ndquarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big 12 commissioner has been vocally optimistic ab out having fans back in the college stadiums. Clemson star WR Justyn Ross has been ruled out for the 2020 season, as he prepared to undergo surgery for a congenital fusion.

 

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. The NHL is providing updates to the public every Monday. Although the 31 NHL general managers said they intend to resume the regular season in July, on-ice action remains on the shelf. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that ending the season without awarding a champion is “not something I’m even contemplating.” I’m glad for that, being a Bruins fan and that the Bruins were in first place overall. Luc Robitaille, Kings’ president, told season-ticket holders last Thursday that it seems the NHL is “leaning toward” jumping right to the playoffs, rather than concluding the regular season. The working plan is a 24-team playoff field, which would include the ‘bubble’ teams (just on the bubble of the 8 teams of each conference), Blackhawks and Canadiens. It is clear that there has been pushback to restart the season from the teams that are far outside the playoff picture and having teams reconvene at centralized sites for about a dozen regular season games. The NHL and NHLPA have a jointly appointed Return to Play Committee that was working over the weekend. Here are the issues that ESPN reports the Committee is working on:

  • How long they need for training camps?
  • What would be the playoff format?
  • How quarantine and testing procedures would work (for example, since Russia has seen a recent spike in cases, forced to self-isolate and for how long)?
  • What happens if someone tests positive?
  • How to accommodate the players’ wishes to bring their families to hub cities?
  • What to do about fans or fan noise?

 

On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin).

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Basketball fans, unlike many of the other team sports’ fans, have had something new and interesting to watch, in the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance.Unlike some of the other professional team sports, the NBA and the NBA players’ union had agreed, in a poll, to restart the season, and have at least some regular season and then the playoffs. However, after much chatter, since LeBron took his last shot on 3/11, there have been no concrete plans to reopen. A one- or two-site setup for teams is among the most likely scenarios, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, per ESPN. The Union and the NBA did agree on a deal that would begin with bimonthly paychecks to withhold 25% of player salaries in the event that games are formally canceled under the league’s Force Majeure provision in the CBA. That withholding began with the last paychecks. Late 6/4, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games would reportedly be played at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Some coup for ESPN/Disney! The vote was 29-1, with the Blazers the only team against the format. The top 8 teams in each conference, plus the Blazers, Pelicans, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards (the bubble teams). The training camp would start 6/30, and all teams would fly to Orlando on 7/7. The tip-off would be 7/31, and a game 7 of this modified playoff format would be on 10/12. Each team would play 8 games before the playoffs would start. Gone, will be the home court advantage.

 

 

The WNBA season was postponed from mid-May start, although the 2020 WNBA Draft went on as scheduled 4/17.

 

 

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season was suspended on 2/1. The latest word is that the CBA would restart its season in July.

 

 

 

Marathons

 

 

On 5/28, the 124thBoston Marathon announced that the 2020 race, postponed from April (Patriot’s Day) to 9/14, has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held virtually. The virtual part is to reward people who run the marathon with participant t-shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out. Runners, at this time, will NOT be automatically entered into 2021’s race, because they don’t yet know what that race will look like. The Boston Marathon typically brings in more than $200 million to Boston’s economy and raises another $36 million for charities, each year. About 30,000 people usually run the Boston Marathon each year and there are about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile route.

 

 

Cycling

 

 

The Tour de France was scheduled to begin 6/27, but that date was pushed back until 8/29-9/20. Then, the French government said that no sports events may be held until September, so they will likely have to tweak the start date or cancel the race.

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.  Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity. Other horseraces have been held in the past month, but without spectators, like the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby.

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARbegan the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results (you will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races have been postponed, some have been cancelled, and some have been replaced by other races):

 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, Darlington 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES at Bristol which was scheduled for 4/5

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15

6/10 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400-as scheduled

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-as scheduled

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegan with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. The reports are that they are thinking about 7/5 as a start date.  It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Fortunately, I never posted the original 2020 schedule, so I don’t have to update it. F1 is currently working with its promoters on a revised 2020 calendar with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races expected to differ significantly from the original 2020 calendar. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29.

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them:

 

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104thIndianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-POSTPONED

7/18 Iowa 300-moved to double-header with Monterey Grand Prix

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-

9/6 Grand Prix of Portland-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey-moved to double-header with Iowa 300

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race

 

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

 

I assure you that I am not involved, but Disney World announced that it will be reopening on my birthday, 7/11. Sea World is reopening 6/11. Sea World will have a new attraction soon, the Ice Breaker, which is its first launch roller coaster, which features 4 airtime-filled launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida—93 feet with a 100-degree angle. I’m no longer familiar with roller coaster terms, like ‘airtime launches’ and ‘beyond vertical’, but it sounds extremely scary, if you are beyond 90-degrees in a plummet! Moving on to Universal Parks, there are 4 Universal them parks worldwide. Three of the parks are called Universal Studios and are located in Florida, California, and Japan. The theme park in Florida will re-open the Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay on 6/5. Universal City Walk, where they have the restaurants, Hard Rock, bars, and nightclubs, is already open, but for limited operations. South Carolina’s theme parks and attractions were allowed to reopen Memorial Day weekend. This included zoos, museums, aquariums, planetariums, historic buildings and sites, waterparks, amusement park rides, Go-Kart tracks, Bingo facilities, and Miniature golf facilities. As you noticed, it still doesn’t include bowling alleys, nightclubs, spectator sports, and movie theaters. Back to roller coasters, North Carolina has just officially opened the state’s first “alpine coaster”, a mind-blowing mountain-side roller coaster ride. The new “Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster” features 2-person carts that wind through the trees, over rocks, and around 360-degree loops on over 2,160 feet of track at speeds up to 27 mph. It is slightly longer than the legendary Canyon Flyer Coaster, America’s first of 34 alpine coasters, which opened in 2014.

 

 

Although NYC is preparing to reopen on 6/8, the MTA has not shared its plans for the NYC Subway. Always considered a hot-bed of germ activity, no doubt COVID-19 presents some challenges for the MTA to sanitize and lure its 8 million daily riders back. I saw the huge UVB flashers on one of the national TV broadcasts, intended to kill the virus, now that officials have finally agreed that sunlight DOES kill the virus, something that was alleged about 3 months ago, and finally is accepted. But, zapping is intended to be done when the cars come out of service at night, not during operation with riders in and out all day. It’s unlikely that COVID-19 has a watch, and will avoid those daytime hours with riders. Alternatively, NYC Transit workers have been using a chemical called Goldshield 75 to clean the subway cars. The problem with that is that the EPA has not approved that cleaner. Also, 4 years ago, the company that makes Goldshield was forced to settle a complaint filed by the EPA alleging that it made false statements about the effectiveness of the spray. One change that NY Transit did reveal is that every subway rider must wear a mask. However, it did not say who would enforce that rule, how, and whether MTA would distribute masks to riders or force them to buy their own. The Governor of NY has admitted a number of times that social distancing will be impossible on the subways. City and transit officials are fine with expecting/wanting returning NYC workers (some 300,000-400,000 of them in Phase I) to avoid the subway. When the NYSE reopened last week, it directed its employees to avoid subways and buses, and drive their own cars or take taxis, even offering 30% discounts at one parking garage.

 

Pittsburgh’s iconic funicular, Monongahela Incline, is turning 150-years-old. Its younger sibling, the Duquesne Incline, is probably the one seen most often in Pittsburgh skyline images. These are the only 2 inclines remaining in Pittsburgh, which once sported nearly two dozen inclines.

 

This was a sad story for me, as I adore San Francisco (not that I don’t adore a lot of places, like Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Cleveland, etc.). A fire destroyed the warehouse on Pier 45 of San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf, a week ago. It almost engulfed a historic WWII-era ship, SS Jeremiah O’Brien,in the process. 130 firefighters had to battle the flames and one was injured.

 

Italy has now opened up travel to its citizens again.

 

 

 

 

Health News: 

 

 

As of this evening (6/4), globally, more than 389,644 people have died from COVID-19. More than 6.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 2,853,358 people have totally recovered, after getting COVID-19. The US has the most confirmed cases and most deaths, as well as most recovered from the virus. No.2 in number of confirmed cases is now Brazil, and those numbers are growing. No.3 is now Russia, followed by the UK, and then Spain, and then Italy. As for deaths from the virus, No.2 is the UK with 39,987, No.3 is Italy with 33,689, No.4 is Brazil now with 32,548, and No.5 is France with 29,068.  According to Italian authorities, 96% of the COVID-19 fatalities there were suffering from other illnesses before the virus. 1.1% of the victims were under 50-years-old there, and the average age of those who died was 80-years-old.

 

 

 

The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 6/04, now exceeds 108,208. Over 26% of those deaths were elderly people. New York is by far the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 6/04, there have been 30,174 deaths in the state, while 66,756 people have recovered from the virus. COVID-19 now has two strains: L strain and S strain. The CDC has determined that the early estimate of a 3% mortality rate was grossly inaccurate and that the mortality rate is now close 0.30%.

 

 

The US and Europe are now dealing with a rare, COVID-19-related Inflammatory Disease affecting children. The disease is referred to as PMIS and has been reported in parts of the US and Europe and reportedly some children have experienced organ failure. At least 3 deaths have been reported in NY.

 

Authors of a major study on the drug hydroxychloroquine have asked the scientific journal “The Lancet” to retract their study, saying they are no longer confident in its findings. The study was published on 5/22 and raised questions about treating severely ill patients with the drug typically used against autoimmune diseases and malaria. The study, which found no benefit from the drug, but potentially serious cardiac side effects, led other researchers, including the WHO, to halt studies of the drug for treatment of COVID-19.

 

 

LabCorp’s COVID-19 IgG Antibody Test is now available. If you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, your body will typically produce immunoglobulin G antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus, and this serology testing checks for that antibody. The test does not show if you have been exposed to COVID-19, because it can take 2-4 weeks after exposure to develop antibodies. So, this test is for individuals who think they may have had COVID-19 and do not currently have symptoms. It does not tell you if you have an active infection. There is a new contact tracing app that could become the model to save the world from the spread of COVID-19. I mentioned this test in the last Repo Commentary, and since then, scientists have found it to be only about 50% accurate.

 

Some fire departments are warning about leaving hand sanitizer in your car on a warm day, which has sparked a debate. It started in Wisconsin, with a fire department pointing to a burned-out car as being caused by a hand sanitizer in the vehicle on a hot day. Most hand sanitizers are alcohol-based and flammable. They also warned against clear water bottles being left in vehicles, as they can focus light to the point that it can boil the water and cause the bottle to explode. As reports spread across social media, questions about the validity of the claim started to rise. The Poynter Institute of Media Studies found similar warnings in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Brazil. A further study, it noted, found hand sanitizer would need to reach a temperature of approximately 300 degrees to combust, and that vehicles, which can get hot enough to kill people or animals, can only reach about 160 degrees.

 

WHO is now concerned that immunization campaigns for other illnesses, that were stalled or disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic, may lead to many preventable deaths in children.

 

The doctor in charge of a San Francisco Bay area trauma center said that the state should end its lockdown orders, after an “unprecedented” spike in suicide attempts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

Animal News:

 

 

Russia’s President Putin declared a state of emergency, when 20,000 tons of oil leaked into a river in the Arctic. Although, it’s time that the great white sharks usually move North, as Florida waters are warming up to about 84 degrees, 3 different great white sharks pinged off of palm beach county beaches in the past few days. A 9-year-old Arkansas boy was killed in a dog attack while checking the mail. His mother had seen several dogs running near the field where police found his body. Carole Baskin has been awarded ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic’s former zoo of exotic cats. They were both featured on the popular reality TV show Tiger King, in which the audience discovered that Joe Exotic had taken out a contract to murder his rival, Carole Baskin, who runs her own Big Cat Rescue in Florida. He was found guilty and is serving a 20 year sentence now. There are also some questions surrounding the death of Carole Baskin’s first husband. A Siberian zoo has seen an animal baby boom during the COVID-19 lockdown. An alligator rumored to have belonged to Adolf Hitler has died in Moscow. Another woman was attacked by a bison at Yellowstone. The Calgary Zoo is returning its two pandas to China, because bamboo is too hard to obtain, but plentiful in China. An aggressive swarm of bees killed 3 dogs in Arizona. A 52-year-old Chicago-area woman was fatally mauled by the French bulldog that she rescued. Authorities believe the dog had bitten the woman’s boyfriend last month. Brexit may turn out to be a boon for Britain’s wild ponies. The next thing in the COVID-19 saga is that tigers will be social distancing at zoos. US Senators want to ban US from purchasing animals from purchasing animals from China’s ‘wet markets’. America’s rats are getting desperate during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, starving, angry and resorting to cannibalism. According to The Trust for Public Land, the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine highlighted that is was difficult for 100 million people in the US to get outdoors, as they don’t live within a 10-minute walk to a public park. They urge that we need to invest in urban communities. So, the day that the NASA/SpaceX mission was scrubbed, did you see the 6-foot Florida alligator that showed up in the press corps area, uninvited? I’m leaving that to you all to craft a joke about.

 

 

 

 

Entertainment News:

 

 

Based on the success of the streaming movie release of TROLLS WORLD TOUR, Disney has decided to move up the release date of its film version of HAMILTON, from October 2021 to 7/3/20 on its streaming service Disney+.  With all of us shut in for months, it seemed no streaming movie companies or networks could do any wrong, with a literally captivated/captured audience. But, not true, as HBO Max found out with a disastrous launch over the last two weeks. Pricing, content, and distribution did not generate any new excitement. Perhaps, it cannibalized regular HBO, or perhaps, there are so many HBO offerings (5 channels at least, and HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max), that consumers were confused. It has been nearly 4 years since the momentous AT&T acquisition of Time Warner and a promised streaming service from AT&T that would include the valuable assets of Time Warner. So, HBO Max was also late to the party and didn’t get the buzz that Disney+, Netflix, Amazon, and others received. HBO Max also failed to make a deal with the popular services Roku and Amazon Fire TV, so its distribution is impaired. According to data from 2019 Q1, those two platforms accounted for almost 70% of the installed base of streaming devices in the US. Ironically, as Amazon points out, many HBO customers access HBO via Amazon, but now won’t be able to simply upgrade to HBO Max, because it’s not offered. I am still glued to catching up on the many seasons of Madmenon Netflix, but hope to see some of the new Space Force sit-com, with Steve Carell and John Malkovich. I’ve seen stellar reviews from London and horrible reviews from TheVerge. It appears that the people who like it, also liked The Office.  The people who dislike it, are the people who thought for once a show would produce a compelling or funny response to the Trump era and mock the President’s concept of a military Space Force and the Tweeting man in charge. It sounds like politics are getting in the way. The show began 5/29 and has received 6.9 stars out of 10 from imdb. Fred Willard, who plays General Naird’s (Steve Carell) father in Episode 1, died 14 days after the premiere.  Despite Kylie Jenner’s drama with Forbes over her billionaire title, it just gave her the No.1 spot on the magazine’s highest-paid celebrities. Drew Brees has apologized for “insensitive” comments about National Anthem kneeling. The latest Tom Hanks movie will premiere on the small screen, on Apple TV+. GREYHOUND, a WWII thriller, starring Tom Hanks, will premiere on digital release, skipping the theaters. No word yet on whether he is either on a boat or a plane, but whatever you do (based on his hit movies), don’t be on either with him! Comedienne Kathy Griffin is on the Secret Service radar (again), as she has wished President Trump dead (again) in a new attack, involving injecting him with a syringe with nothing but air. Dolphins Stadium (Hard Rock Stadium) here in Miami is going to be converted to a huge drive-in movie theater, until the NFL season begins.

 

 

Technology & Space News:

 

 

In just the last 2 months, the world’s 25 richest billionaires gained nearly $255 billion in additional wealth, led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. After last Wednesday’s NASA/SpaceX mission to put astronauts back in space from US soil, the first time since 2011, the launch was scrubbed with 17 minutes to go, because of the awful weather we have been having in Florida. But, the mission was successfully launched on Saturday from Cape Canaveral, and the rocket used was successfully landed on a floating landing pad, the technology that is saving the space program, due to the ability to reuse rockets, instead of building from scratch. On Sunday, the crew of 2 successfully rendezvoused with the International Space Station, where there are now (unusually) 5 spacecraft docked, making it actually LOOK like a Space Station, for once. Since the 1950s, there has always been something captivating about space exploration for Americans, and crowds cheered and many watched the launch on TV.  Well, here’s a news item that somehow didn’t show up on the launch or the media hype: the head of human spaceflight at NASA resigned a week before the NASA/SpaceX launch of human into space!  A little intrigue. I’m waiting for when THAT comes on Dateline. SpaceX is now set to launch its latest batch of internet satellites.  I’m always learning new things and discovered that the Fortnite World Cup 2020 has been cancelled. Apparently, the 2019 Fortnite World Cup drew some 19,000 fans into NYC’s Arthur Ashe Stadium (the site of tennis’ US Open) for the Epic Games video game Fortnite World Cup Finals. Amazon warehouse workers are suing Amazon over risk of COVID-19 infection. With the COVID-19 pandemic and humans risking their health to work as delivery drivers during the lockdowns, autonomous vehicles and drones seem to have missed their opportunity to shine. Their rise certainly has enormous implications for business and for society. But, they weren’t ready from a development or a commercialization standpoint, to step in, as it were.  Dyson has shared new photos and videos of its cancelled electric SUV.  In related news, there may be consolidation coming to the delivery services, as Uber, fresh from a round of massive layoffs to Uber ride-share services (14% in a Zoom conference call), is reportedly looking at trying to buy Grubhub food-delivery services. Grubhub is Uber Eats main competitor, along with DoorDash and Delivery Dudes. Even though it seems hard to believe, since Uber is only offering stock to Grubhub, and a stock that’s taken a beating after Q1 losses of $3 billion for Uber, the WSJ says it could make sense to combine the two firms. Also, Uber sold of its UberEats arm in India to a rival at the beginning of the year, and less than a week ago, ended operations for UberEats in 7 other countries. The combined company would have a market share in food delivery of about 48%, compared to DoorDash’s 42%. Spotify has improved its parental control features by enabling parents to view their child’s listening history and block any unwanted content. Snapchat has stopped promoting President Trump’s account and dropped it from Discover, over “racial violence and injustice.” Despite news reports, Nintendo’s Donkey Kong statue was not actually stolen from its New York store.

 

 

Google launched a very thoughtful initiative that involved hundreds of people with Down syndrome lending their voices to Google, so voice-to-text and other Google Assistance features can be programmed by programmers to detect their voices more accurately. As the brother of a great special needs brother, I am touched to see this.

 

 

US News:

 

 

 

The States are each reopening on their own schedules now. Connecticut was the last State to finally start reopening. NYC is next to begin reopening. But, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown reopening is now running into some looting and larger social protest, which is currently causing another kind of shutdown, has caused some further damage to small businesses, and led to some quarantine-like curfews.

 

 

A shocking video went viral nationwide last week of a white Minneapolis police officer (accompanied by 3 other white police officers), kneeling on an unarmed black man’s (George Floyd) neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, on 5/25. The victim died on the way to the hospital and had been saying to the officers that he couldn’t breathe. All 4 officers were fired the next day. It was later learned that the main protagonist had been involved in a previous racially-charged event, and actually had worked with the victim off-duty as a bouncer for a nightclub. The District Attorney, the Governor, and the FBI did not move quickly enough to charge all of the officers involved with crimes, which made the public furious. It was apparently lost on authorities how blatant the racially-motivated police brutality was (despite having a similar incident with the same result happen in NYC in 2014), the already existing tension nationwide between law enforcement and the public, and how the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown (viewed by some as a governmental stripping of citizens’ rights) could lead to volatile public outrage. Authorities waited until 5/29, before they arrested the main protagonist officer, Chauvin, and charged him with 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin’s wife has filed for divorce. According to the Minneapolis Police Department, they were responding to a call that a man was trying to use a $20 counterfeit bill. On 6/3, the District Attorney upgraded the charge against Chauvin to 2ndDegree Murder, and finally charged the 3 other officers with Aiding and Abetting a Murder. The State of Minnesota has now filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department. The backlash had already begun days before, with violent protests and looting in Minneapolis, and has spread quickly to all metropolitan areas and even suburban areas of the country. In Atlanta, the College Football Hall of Fame was looted and destroyed. Even here in West Palm Beach, a peaceful demonstration Sunday night turned into looting, shooting of mall windows, and attacks on police. The backlash is escalating and has led to some States (Florida being one of them) to mobilize the National Guard to stop the looting and to enforce curfews in many cities. West Palm Beach is now under a 9pm curfew. NYC is under an 11pm curfew, since Monday, but it has not prevented destruction. The doors of Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan were breached by looters. The Manhattan Nike store was looted and storefront windows near Rockefeller Center were smashed. The protests seem to have had two completely different elements: a peaceful protest, then another crowd with violent intent and looting in mind, that has sort of used the first protesters as a screen. Video posted on social media showed some protesters in NYC arguing with other people breaking windows, urging them to stop. Last night was the 9thday of protests, and most of them were seas of people that were much more peaceful than the first days of protest, with only a few hotspots, like Brooklyn and Manhattan, the latter of which had a police officer stabbed and 22 shots fired. There have been at least 5 people who have died in the 9 days of protests, including a retired police captain in Detroit. There is backlash to the backlash too. Singer Lana Del Ray posted a minute-long video of looters to her 16.5 million followers on Instagram and criticized the protesters. Fans immediately took to social media and Twitter to slam the singer for her actions. Model Chrissy Teigen has pledged $200,000 to bail out protesters who may be arrested. Tiger Woods urged calm after “shocking tragedy”, and said violent protests weren’t the answer. He said he had the “utmost respect” for police and likened the situation to the Los Angeles riots of 1992, after four police were acquitted over the beating of motorist Rodney King. Other athletes have also weighed in, including legend Michael Jordan, who said he was “plain angry” and tennis star Coco Gauff, who asked, “Am I next?” The protests across America are probably the largest and most widespread since the 1960s. Multiple historical landmarks in Washington, DC were vandalized by crowds, referred to by CNN as “far-left domestic terrorists.” The historic Lincoln Memorial, WWI Memorial, WWII Memorial, and historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. President Trump is denying reports that the protests forced him into the bunker at the White House on Friday, saying that he was actually inspecting the bunker.

 

 

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected).  The 6,648,000 reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. On 4/9, Initial Claims jumped by 6,606,000.  Then, on 4/15, Initial Claims were up another 5,000,000, taking the four week total of new Unemployment Claims to 22,000,000. Many officials and economists had forecasted a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people, and that looked like a spot-on forecast.  But, then on 4/23, weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported up another 4,427,000, taking the grand total to over 26 million. On 4/30, Initial Claims jumped another 3,839,000. On 5/7, weekly Initial Claims was up another 3,169,000, which at least was a decrease from the 4/30 reading. But, that brings the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown total since 3/14 to 33 million, more than forecasted. The Unemployment Rate was 15.5% for the week ending 4/25.  That is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Looking at the ADP National Employment Report, business closures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic prompted private employers to lay off a record 20.5 million people in April. On 5/14, Initial Claims were reported to be 2,981,000 more, although less than the previous week, bringing the total since 3/14 to 36 million. That put the Unemployment Rate up to 15.7% for the week ending 5/2. Then on 5/21, Initial Claims went up another 3,044,000 and on 5/28, Initial Claims were up another 2,123,000. And, today, 6/4, Initial Claims were up another 1.9 million, another lower increase, although still way above the average reading. This brings the grand total, so far, since 3/14 due to COVID-19 11-weeks of shutdown to 43,020,000. Maybe, a more important figure is in a survey by the Census Bureau, which shows that 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The hardest-hit households are in states that rely heavily on energy or tourism for employment, according to the WSJ.

 

 

New Jersey, during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, released some 1,000 inmates from its county jails, in what was the nation’s broadest effort to address risks of COVID-19 spreading among the incarcerated.

 

 

 

 

Bankruptcy News:

 

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings were up 26% in April. Financial hardships are continuing to increase across the country and around the world. Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings actually increased in the US 6% just from March to April. On 5/16, The Economist ran an article “US faces unpredictable rate of business bankruptcies”, citing that 2020 is already the worst year for US bankruptcies since 2009, but it is even uncertain whether it will get worse. OpenTable predicts that 25% of US restaurants won’t reopen, as restaurants lost more than $30 billion in sales in March and $50 billion in sales in April. Some insiders think the percentage could be closer to 50%. Some analysts believe that a higher percentage of the more than 27,000 NYC restaurants won’t reopen. According to NY Governor Cuomo, COVID-19 has already forced 100,000 NY small businesses to close permanently.

 

There has been a trend over the last few years of large retail chains filing bankruptcy, certainly more recently due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but in the past year, more due to brick and mortar stores losing revenue to online retailers. Just in 2019, Destination Maternity filed in October, Sugarfina filed in September, Forever 21 filed in September, Fred’s filed in September, Barneys New York filed (for the second time) in August, Avenue filed in August, A’Gaci filed (for the second time) in August, Charming Charlie (for the second time) in July, FTD Florists in June, Sonia Rykiel in April, Roberto Cavalli in April, Z Gallerie (for the second time) in March, Diesel in March, Charlotte Russe in February, FullBeauty Brands in February, Payless in February, Gymboree (for the second time) in January, and SHOPKO in January. And, that was just in 2019. In 2018, we saw some major retail bankruptcies in David’s Bridal, Sears, Mattress Firm, Gump’s, Brookstone, National Stores Inc., Rockport, Nine West, Remington Outdoors (a gun manufacturer during the height of that industry because of the lawsuits stemming from 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre), Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, among others. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Pier 1 is just waiting to reopen stores to sell off assets. Now, Waffle House has closed 365 locations out of 1627. Victoria’s Secret closed 250 stores in US and Canada. Bath & Body Works closed 50 stores. Tuesday Morning shut its 230 stores and filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday morning. I’m aware that that is ironic. And the list goes on…

 

 

According to USA Today and 24/7 Wall St., these are the 23 American brands that might not survive COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Neiman Marcus
  • StubHub
  • C. Penney
  • AMC Theatres
  • Sears
  • WeWork
  • Crew
  • Frontier Communications
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Hertz
  • Steak ‘n Shake
  • Nordstrom
  • GNC Holdings
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Gold’s Gym
  • Chesapeake
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Dave & Buster’s
  • Party City
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods
  • Best Buy
  • Revlon
  • Gogo

 

 

International News:

 

 

On the COVID-19 front, Japan has had only 16,986 confirmed cases, but 845 deaths in a country of 17 million, by far the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the G-7. An expert panel says that citizens wearing face masks, kept the death toll low. Face-coverings have sparked angry confrontations in some parts of the world, were initially dismissed as ineffective by WHO, and continue to be used or not used, to almost equal degree in some countries. Yet, face-coverings have been a part of everyday life in Japan for years. Also, the government, which is just now inching toward resuming activities, was very quick to react and shut down, and is keeping watch for a second wave of infections. PM Shinzo Abe ended the national state of emergency on 6/1. But, in Japan, the model seems to have worked very well to contain COVID-19, but the healthcare system there came close to collapse, according to Japan Times. The man behind Sweden’s highly-lauded and controversial COVID-19 plan (to not impose a strict lockdown and to rely on herd immunity) Anders Tegnell, says that decision has led to too many deaths. Sweden has now seen a far higher mortality rate than its neighbors and its citizens are now being barred from crossing neighbors’ borders. Sweden now has had 4,542 deaths and 40,803 infections in a population of 10 million, while Denmark, Norway and Finland have imposed lockdowns and had far lower rates (580, 237, and 321 deaths, respectively). Tegnell points out that the flaw in their plan was not the lack of lockdown, but the inability to keep homes for the elderly virus-free.

 

The US protests over George Floyd’s death have been exported to other countries, particularly in the UK, bringing new awareness to many other world citizens. Reportedly, Russia, China, and Iran are using the films of protests and police violence as propaganda to their people versus the US. In unrelated news, Gambia demands a probe after US police in Georgia shot a diplomat’s son to death, after a car chase.

 

 

Florida:

 

 

 

Gov. DeSantis announced that Florida would enter full Phase 1 on Monday, 5/18. He allowed for gyms and fitness centers to be open, beaches to be open, and retail stores and restaurants up to 50% capacity. Just as States are dramatically varying in how and when they reopen, so are establishments. So, not all bars are still closed here (and those that aren’t are subject to fines), some bars have figured out to put tables up against the bar to present a technicality, while others are maintaining social distance. It’s amazing how it depends on the establishment. In West Palm Beach, authorities have gone out of their way to install tented outdoor seating into the streets in front of the restaurants, expanding their outdoor capacity. On 6/3, Gov. DeSantis said that all counties, except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, could move to Phase 2, which will include opening Bars and Nightclubs to 50% capacity (and 100% capacity outdoors), movie theaters (to 50% capacity), bowling alleys, and theaters (to 50% capacity). I really don’t understand how these establishments are going to sanitize sufficiently. I did find out that my gym, LA Fitness, which reopened to 25% and now can do 50% capacity, indicated no real changes in their email to me, but actually are now giving each member towels and a sanitizer spray bottle to clean each machine after their use. That’s better. Now, if I go really early in the morning, the machines won’t have been used by many members and will be still sanitized from the morning staff. Gov. DeSantis is still keeping Jacksonville as a possible GOP convention city. Gov. DeSantis was originally attacked for his handling of COVID-19 pandemic, quarantining visitors from Louisiana, Georgia, and the tri-state area, locking down elderly care facilities, and treating higher-population counties with harsher restrictions. It appears now that those policies have worked, and he is now being praised for particularly

 

 

 

 

I am usually singing in Palm Beach County, FL, at least somewhere. My National Anthems for MLB came to an abrupt halt in mid-Spring Training, due to the pandemic lockdown. I still did some charity singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, but mostly just drive-ups in parking lots at restaurants. I will be doing more solo gigs as Elvis Presley ETA, and have already begun singing on friend entertainers’ gigs. I took an indefinite leave of absence from my harmony group (after 12 years). I will be expanding my songs to other artists, besides Elvis (Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Josh Turner, Sinatra, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, etc.).

 

Here are the upcoming scheduled concerts, still subject to change due to COVID-19, in South Florida:

 

07/07 Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett-Miami

07/09 Chris Botti-Fort Lauderdale

07/18 The Weeknd-Miami

07/29 Boz Scaggs-Fort Lauderdale

08/01 Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach

08/18 John Legend-Sunrise

09/03 Brad Paisley-West Palm Beach

09/26 Backstreet Boys-West Palm Beach

12/05 Cher-Miami

12/20 Andrea Bocelli-Miami

 

 

 

 

 

Jokes and Such:

 

 

A poodle and a collie are walking together when the poodle suddenly unloads on his friend. “My life is a mess,” he says. “My owner is mean, my girlfriend ran away with a schnauzer, and I’m as jittery as a cat.”

“Why don’t you go see a psychiatrist?” suggests the collie.

“I can’t,” says the poodle. “I’m not allowed on the couch.”

Repo Commentary-05/20/20

IMG_6809[1]IMG_6842IMG_6843IMG_6844IMG_6845IMG_6848IMG_6849IMG_6850IMG_6853IMG_6855IMG_6858IMG_6859IMG_6860IMG_6872IMG_6873IMG_6877IMG_6878IMG_6879IMG_6880IMG_6882IMG_6881IMG_6883IMG_6886IMG_6887IMG_6894IMG_6862IMG_6875IMG_6888IMG_6889IMG_6890

It is Day 71 (on 5/20) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Things have changed a lot in the past week, with many states relaxing restrictions, while several states extended restrictions.

 

 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

 

 

I mentioned that the book I ghostwrote last year, became the No.1 bestseller on Amazon last week, in Kindle form. Today, the hardcopy version of my book is being released. I am outlining another book, which will be a true story written by me, and not a memoir about someone else. I believe the first of a series of articles that I was commissioned to write will be published sometime in the next 2 weeks.

 

 

I am still not retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am working with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available for hire as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. 

 

 

My Repo Commentary, however, is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week on Monday or Tuesday.

 

 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (05/20):

 

 

  • Be A Millionaire Day
  • Eliza Doolittle Day
  • Emergency Medical Services for Children Day
  • Flower Day
  • Pick Strawberries Day
  • National Rescue Dog Day
  • National Quiche Lorraine Day
  • International Clinical Trials Day
  • World Bee Day
  • World Autoimmune Arthritis Day
  • Weights and Measures Day
  • Turn Beauty Inside Out Day
  • World Metrology Day
  • National Day (Cameron)
  • National Awakening Day (Indonesia)
  • Josephine Baker Day (NAACP)
  • Independence Restoration Day (East Timor from Indonesia)
  • European Maritime Day (EC)
  • Emancipation Day (Florida)
  • Day of Remembrance (Cambodia)

 

 

Next Monday is Memorial Day in the US. All US markets will be closed for this Federal holiday.

 

Some Famous People Born on 05/20 in History:

 

 

  • 1818-Willam Fargo, American businessman and politician, co-founded Wells Fargo and American Express
  • 1851-Emile Berliner, German-American inventor, invented the Gramophone record
  • 1919-George Gobel, American comedian
  • 1925-Alexei Tupolev, Russian engineer, designed the Tupolev Tu-144
  • 1927-Bud Grant, American football player and coach
  • 1940-Stan Mikita, Slovak-Canadian ice hockey player and sportscaster
  • 1940-Sadaharu Oh, Japanese-Taiwanese baseball player and manager
  • 1944-Joe Cocker, English singer-songwriter
  • 1948-Cher, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
  • 1946-Bobby Murcer, American baseball player, coach, manager, and sportscaster
  • 1949-Dave Thomas, Canadian actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1960-Tony Goldwyn, American actor and director
  • 1963-David Wells, American baseball player and sportscaster
  • 1971-Tony Stewart, American race car driver
  • 1972-Busta Rhymes, American rapper, producer, and actor
  • 1984-Patrick Ewing Jr., American basketball player

 

 

 

 Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

The Chivas Regal effect is when an increase in the price of a product drives increased sales without a change in the quality of the product. This happens because consumers frequently associate quality with cost.

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

“Still haven’t decided where to go for Memorial Day—The Living Room or The Bedroom.”–anonymous

 

 

 

 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

 

Oil prices closed at:

 

$74.34/barrel on 10/5

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

 

 

 

 

Oil prices are a mess. Norway has resorted to its first ever withdrawal of an estimated $37 billion from its $1 trillion sovereign oil fund, due to the financial pressures from the pandemic and the oil price collapse. This method keeps it from having to borrow the money from the bond markets. The Norway fund is now the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and was established in 1969. Meanwhile, oil traders needing to store oil for future sale are booking more expensive US-based vessels that are normally limited to domestic shipments under the century-old Jones Act. Some Jones Act tankers are also reportedly being used for international fuel shipments. EIA reports the second straight weekly decline in US crude supplies. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has stopped falling and risen another 3 cents in the past week, at $1.79/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

 

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

 

 

The USD has advanced strongly against all major currencies over the past week. The Euro/USD exchange was very close to the Maastricht Treaty low of $1.08. The CAD/USD is near historic highs.

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. Now, it has rallied sharply in the last few weeks, leading to its impending ‘halving event’. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split.  Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year.  In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867.  This will be the 3rd‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. There were strong rallies prior to the other two ‘halvings’ as well. ‘Halving’ refers to a programmed-in event in Bitcoin’s code, which reduces the reward per block mined by 50% every 4 years to control inflation. Following the halving, rewards issued will drop to 6.25 BTC from the current 12.5 BTC. I’ve heard the promotional material that halving events create lesser supply (half the payment for miners, so less supply of coins) and increase the media attention on Bitcoin and could lead to a rally. But, the charts from the previous halvings have shown more of a sideways move, even a drop in prices for one, and months later, a rally. You know, being a huge stochastics fan my entire career, I have always felt, naively, that any market, at any time, is operating in a pattern either predictable by stochastics or as the result of changing fundamentals. Except Bitcoin. I have not been able to recognize the stochastic patterns easily or correlated the fundamentals with market reaction. So, that’s what I reported in the 5/11 Repo Commentary, but instead, Bitcoin has rocketed higher, after the halving. In fact, it has already tested the $10,000 level three times by 5/20.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

Nasdaq is planning rule changes that could limit Chinese businesses’ access to the Exchange and ability to launch IPOs, because of alleged concerns about the reliability of accounting information. Bond analysts are warning companies that it is “inappropriate” for them to use alternative performance metrics such as so-called ebitdac, to analyze their bonds, which artificially increases earnings calculations by assuming that the COVID-19 crisis didn’t happen, per FT. Users of Robinhood reported outages while the stock market was in a particularly positive trading phase on Monday, which Robinhood said it has fixed. E*Trade users also reported glitches on the platform on Monday. The American Securities Association has sued the SEC to prevent the consolidated audit trail from collecting investors’ personally identifiable information, alleging that it is a substantial risk to the privacy of American investors. The first OTC swaps linked to the Singapore overnight rate average were cleared at LCH on 5/18. SORA is similar to SOFR in the US. Previously, the Bank of China and France’s Credit Agricole had executed the first cross-currency swap between the US dollar and China’s renminbi based on SOFR. The $10 million one-year swap was confirmed on the China Foreign Exchange Trade System platform. JPMorgan reports that it has loaned $30 billion to 250,000 small businesses through the PPP. Janus Henderson is forecasting that the COVID-19 pandemic could make $493 billion in global dividends evaporate, a drop of more than one-third. Trade tensions and tariffs, along with COVID-19, have heightened nationalism over globalization, including data on citizens. Countries are increasingly requiring data localization, keeping info stored about citizens in the country where they live and not releasing to other countries. For bankers, that could mean that the client information that they think is stored in the Cloud, may actually be stored in a specific country’s server and not available to them in the future. Four months after Ecuador sold $400 million in Social Bonds to build affordable housing, the bonds are trading below their original offering price, but yet investor demand still remains. The bonds yield 7.3%. UBS posted a 40% profit gain and has signaled confidence on its credit portfolio. HSBC profit slid to $3.2 billion, as loan losses loom. Morgan Stanley is launching a Canada Wealth business. I used to run the Morgan Stanley Repo desk. President Trump said he is considering holding the G-7 meeting at Camp David.

 

 

US Market News:

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets. US GDP declined 4.8% in Q1. That was the sharpest contraction since the global Financial Crisis and ended the longest economic expansion on record. The reduction of COVID-19 lockdowns is having a direct impact on stock prices rising. The Dow is up today (5/20) as I write this, about 400 points on Caterpillar and Intel.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, as regulators continue to resist reinstating the Uptick Rule, which disappeared after the Great Recession. Nasdaq’s CEO Adena Friedman said that the triggering of the SEC’s market-wide circuit breakers in March provided an opportunity to reassess how useful they are, and said “they can be effective, but we should obviously be looking at how we can improve them.” Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):

 

 

 

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20    24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

24,242.49 on 04/17/20

24,133.78 on 04/27/20

24,331.32 on 05/08/20

24,206.86 on 05/19/20

 

 

 

 

 

A 30% rebound on the S&P 500 since 3/23/20 has underscored the ways in which different markets appraise the outlook for the economy, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a disparity with the Labor Department data showing that the real economy has lost 20.5 million jobs in just April. The S&P 500’s forward price-to-earnings ratio has reached 21, the highest point since 2001 (during the Dot.com bubble), despite disappointing corporate earnings.

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

 

 

The US Treasury department expects to borrow a record $2.99 trillion during Q2, more than any quarterly amount during the Great Recession. Fed’s Thomas Barkin said that the large volume of borrowing undertaken by the US government is necessary to respond to economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, US Treasuries saw a record amount of foreign selling, to the tune of $299.3 billion (a sharp contrast to February’s overall BUYING of $4.9 billion!). The CME Group has seen its profit jump from trading volatility. As the Fed is winding down its latest QE (is that QE 3?), while US Treasury supply is increasing, it is having the most impact on MBS, where the market was relying on Fed purchases more to prop up day-to-day prices. Over the last few weeks, the Fed has reduced its MBS purchases from $8b per day to $6b per day. But, the Fed’s initial move to buy whopping amounts of MBS already has dearly cost some MBS originators, like Quicken Loans, according to Bloomberg, about $5 billion in margin calls from Street hedge counterparties, which has had a ripple effect on the rate of originations. There is less money available for people to purchase homes or refinance at lower interest rates. Mortgage lenders promise to lock in interest rates for borrowers weeks before the loans are closed, then hedge that short-term risk by shorting mortgage-related securities. But, the Fed’s massive buying program made those securities’ prices immediately shoot up, causing the hedges to plunge into the red and forcing Street margin calls on the lenders. Instead of a safety hedge for the lenders, the hedges became immediate drains on their cash. This is also a symptom of the 24 primary dealers not necessarily passing along the easy money they are receiving from the Fed to originators who then pass it to the public. Maybe the Fed should go directly to Fintech digital hedge firms that could create mid-market execution for the originators, bypassing the Street?

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

Reuters reports that about 4.1 million US borrowers have had their mortgage payments reduced or put on hold, due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that the pace of requests is marginally slowing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Mortgages in Forbearance rose to 8.16% (from 7.91%) between 5/4 and 5/10, representing the smallest weekly increase since March.

 

Looking at Commercial Real Estate again, after speaking with my attorney and real estate friends on the ground, particularly in NYC, increasing commercial real estate vacancies from companies that realize that their people can work from home, is creating new challenges for urban real estate. In a 5/6 Bloomberg article, it was shown that new leases in NYC have sunk to the lowest Q1 level since 2009. The collapse began with the shutdown of businesses in March, but has been exacerbated by a market facing a surge of new offices. Now, many companies are delaying expansion plans and cancelling leases, as they re-think how much NYC space they actually need in a post-COVID-19 world. While that may be good for society’s progress and innovation and efficiency, it is not good for commercial real estate owners and landlords. Two of the largest NYC landlords have already seen more than $5 billion in market value evaporate. So, the question is, does conventional office setting need to still exist?

 

WeWork made an aggressive move to withhold/renege on rent or renegotiate terms on other rent payments, hammering CMBS, driving down prices of securities backed by the company’s payments, according to the Financial Times. See the Bankruptcy section for more info.

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac intend to hire financial advisers to help them emerge from US Government conservatorship. These advisers will be tasked with developing strategies for recapitalization and updating their business plans. Speaking of FNMA and FHLMC, FHFA clarified rules on homeowner forbearance plans for loans from those two GSEs, saying that homeowners who are given forbearance to skip mortgage payments as part of the government’s stimulus efforts will not be required to repay them as a lump sum later. Although this only applies to FNMA and FHLMC loans, the FHFA is encouraging all lenders to follow suit.

 

 

The WSJ reports that auto loan delinquency rates increased faster than credit card delinquencies during Q1, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the US economy. Meanwhile, the rate of forbearance for auto loans was 7.5%, compared to just 3.6% for credit cards.

 

 

Let’s go back to mortgage borrowers, who see incredibly low interest rates on US Treasuries, where the government can borrow money, and which typically are a sign of where mortgage borrowers can get mortgage loans. The 10-year Treasury note rate has typically been a proxy for the 30-year mortgage loan rate. But, instead, a vast disparity between the US government’s cost of borrowing money and the rates offered to homeowners has emerged. The gap now between 10-year Treasuries and 30-year mortgages is about 290bp, near the extraordinarily high levels last seen in late 2008 and early 2009. It has averaged about 174bp for the past 5 years. So, the mortgage rates now should be around 2.25% for a 30-year government-backed mortgage, but instead, according to Bankrate.com, are up above 3.5%. Then, add to this that mortgage originators have gotten hammered on their hedges and margin calls and have less money available to homeowners (as I mentioned in the last section), and lenders have made the process more complicated to slow the rate of mortgages, and suddenly the homeowners/consumers (whom the Fed wants to reach) are not benefitting from lower rates. Even the lockdown and social distancing is hampering the mortgage process, as property appraisals and processing of loan documents are literally being delayed.

 

MarketWatch said that there is a mansion ‘to ride out the pandemic’ being offered for rent in Los Angeles, at a mere $350,000/month.

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

 

GC repo rates continue to confound, dropping with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range. Even term GC rates have dropped this week, by 2-4bp. With QE purchases winding down and issuance increasing (like the $647 billion in CM bills), many thought that repo rates would move higher to at least the mid-target area. Instead, repo rates dropped on Monday and continued Tuesday. It looks like the new issuance is being absorbed easily by the market. Maybe there is temporary new cash in the market from uncertain outright investors in equities and bonds? Or maybe the cash that used to come monthly to GSEs, who then put it to work in the repo market, has returned?

 

I missed something in the last Repo Commentary that Scott Skyrm brought to my attention: GC Repo Rate Volatility. This volatility is the daily highest GC repo rate that traded minus the daily lowest GC repo rate that traded on the same day. That repo rate volatility back in 2010, on the heels of the Financial Crisis (and at much higher real interest rates), was only about 6-7bp. It hovered below 10bp for the next 4 years, then started increasing in 2015 and 2016 to 14bp. It continued that increasing trend, until it hit 2019, which was the record year for this volatility, averaging 26.9bp. 2020 began with lower repo rate volatility than 2019, but still above previous years, then COVID-19 hit and the Fed dropped its target range to 0%-0.25% (which should have dropped volatility as a percentage of the real interest rate), which has sent it rising again. The trend is for it to continue to rise, perhaps eclipsing 2019’s record high, at some point.

 

 

 

 

I am hearing that the Federal Reserve may be working on resurrecting the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF), which was a subset of the successful TARP program, both from the 2008 Financial Crisis response in 2009/2010. I don’t have a list yet of the securities that the Fed will take in the proposed program, and am curious to see if they will take real estate loans.

 

 

 

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in two of the last three FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day. That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hits $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed is getting ready to roll out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies.

 

The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo.Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

ETPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

 

 

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates.  

 

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.

 

 

The Fed has promised leniency towards banks’ decisions, underscored by Fed’s Bostic, who said that the Fed will not penalize banks for decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Fed conducts its regulatory reviews 9-12 months from now. Fed’s Powell is calling for more fiscal response, saying that the US economy might not fully recover from the pandemic, until a vaccine exists. On 60 Minutes, he urged more government aid and pointed to health issues and “medical metrics” as being the most important data now for the economy. He acknowledged that the US has been spending more than it’s been taking in for some time. But, that’s something we will have to deal with, when the economy is strong. The Federal Reserve is about to launch its Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), which will target middle-market companies that didn’t qualify for small business relief (such as the PPP). The WSJ says it could be the most complicated and tricky initiative yet.

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

Friday, a 6.5-magnitde earthquake hit between Reno, NV and Las Vegas, NV. It was followed by an earthquake of similar magnitude. The two earthquakes did major damage to part of the main highway between the two cities. There hadn’t been such an earthquake there since the 1920s.

 

Earthquakes above 5.5-magnitude, in the last few days:

 

05/18 5.5 Ferndale, CA

05/16 5.9 Lakatoro, Vanuatu

05/15 6.5 Monte Cristo Range

05/14 5.7 Easter Island

 

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

 

We have been having significantly dangerous weather lately in Florida, as we were brushed by a Tropical Wave and then hot, humid weather brought 3 days of bad thunderstorms from the West coast of the state to the East coast of the state, bringing some damage and 60mph winds with it. We are entering our rainy season, just in time, as we were near drought levels. I hear the thunder as I write this. Kind of ironic that since the beaches opened on 5/18 in Florida, the weather has been horrible. Floodwaters are threatening a chemical plant in Michigan, as dams failed. Mandatory evacuations have been issued. California is finally getting a reprieve from the heat, down into the 60s and 70s. The Southwest has heated up, particularly Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas into the 90s. The rest of the country is a little soggy, but mild temperatures in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1stand ends November 30th. I want you to know that I am constantly searching for good or uplifting news, but at the moment, the majority of news items are on the negative side and almost all dealing with COVID-19.  Here is something different, but once again, while informational, kind of to the negative. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more -active-than-normal season, worse than normal. They expect about 12 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons.  We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season.The official hurricane forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season came from CSU, giving us Floridians something else to worry about:  CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Also, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season.

 

Okay, this one is not in the Atlantic or the Pacific. Cyclone Amphan is headed towards India and Bangladesh, sending millions to shelters ahead of the potentially devastating storm, with winds over 100mph. The evacuation is made more challenging by COVID-19 virus.

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB coaching great, Art Howe, 73, was released from a Houston hospital on Sunday, after being admitted with COVID-19 several weeks ago. Pitcher Roberto Colon expects to play one more season at age 46. Diamondbacks Starling Marte said his wife Noelia has died of a heart attack. Astros’ HOF and MLB manager, Bob Watson, died at age 74. The last surviving member of the original 1943 Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during WWII, has died at age 101. Mary Pratt was a pitcher for the Peaches. The League, which temporarily replaced MLB as MLB players went off to war, from 1943-1954, inspired the 1992 classic movie A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, which was based on her second team, the Kenosha Comets, for whom she also pitched.

 

 

On 4/29, USA Today reported that MLB was discussing a plan to start the regular season in late June, no later than 7/2, playing at home stadiums, but with realigned league. Three executives said that they plan to play at least 100 regular season games. But, there would be no fans in their stadiums, and it would likely be a 3-division, 10-team plan, in which teams play only within their division. This would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign teams based on geography, which was the original intent. The players seem to like the idea, as they could still play in their home ballparks and not have to travel as much. The players were opposed to playing the entire season in Arizona/Florida/Texas. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. This is what USA Today was thinking was likely:

 

EAST

NY Yankees, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins

 

WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners

 

CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers

 

MLB is considering how the 30 teams could refund COVID-19 postponements. As for not having fans in the seats, MLB and union officials are discussing the ramifications of not having fans, ticket sales, and concession revenue. Last season, MLB attendance was 68.5 million and the average ticket price was $53. Several teams want significant pay cuts for players, to play a shortened season. There is division about how the revenue-sharing should be split, from the lucrative TV contracts. MLB’s revenue was $10.7 billion in 2019, mostly due to its TV deal. Blake Snell, pitcher for the Rays, made a video of strong points about players not playing for less money. Other stars, like Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado, defended Snell’s position. Alex Rodriguez tweeted on Friday to encourage players to take a 50-50 split in the shortened season, seemingly siding with the owners. It’s interesting that A-Rod, of all former players, who signed two 10-year/$250 million contracts when he was playing, would suddenly favor revenue-sharing over large contracts.

 

 

 

Golf:

 

 

The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.  Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. On Friday, the PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. On Monday, the USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9).

 

 

I watched the charity golf tournament on Sunday between Matt Wolfe/Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy (current World No.1)/Dustin Johnson. The TaylorMade Driving Relief skins tournament was held at nearby ultra-private Seminole Golf Club, home course of Ben Hogan (and now member, Tom Brady). It is considered always one of the top 25 golf courses in the world, but had never been filmed on TV (in fact, rarely photographed at all). The McIlroy/DJ won on a tiebreaker hole with closest to the pin by Rory, after Rory picked up 6 skins on the 18thhole. Ironically, Rory’s father is a member at the Club. The President of Seminole is Jimmy Dunne, a former client and one of the founders of Sandler O’Neill, now Vice Chairman of Piper Sandler. The tournament raised over $4 million for COVID-19 relief organizations. I couldn’t watch the whole thing, as it is tough to follow one foursome around a golf course for hours. The event drew an average of 2.35 million viewers. The PGA Championship is still schedule for August. President Trump talked about the return of professional golf and his hopes that tens of thousands of fans will again line the courses and won’t have to wear masks, sooner than later.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.

 

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. An Indianapolis infectious disease doctor has voiced significant doubts about having an NFL season this year. However, NBC News quotes direct sources who say that ongoing pandemic has created only an “extremely small” chance that there will be no NFL season in 2020. According to NFL personnel, the biggest impediment to playing football would be the availability of adequate testing, both for players/staff and the general public. But, it is expected that testing will be prevalent by August and expected to be simple, with a quick turnaround time. This is one of the few team sports that believes it will open up the season with fans IN the seats. The NFL is also the one team sport that puts a lot more weight on the unfair advantages and disadvantages of fans in home stadiums. So, not having fans would have a much greater impact on NFL outcomes, as opposed to NHL, NBA, or MLB. I don’t know if I agree with that. I think that is true for NCAA team sports though. The NFL also recognizes that ‘social distancing’ will be impossible for fans in a stadium. All of this does not mean that training camps will necessarily open in late July/early August and that the regular season will start precisely on Thursday night, 9/10. The NFL is testing new face masks with surgical material. Apparently, LeBron James becoming a Dallas Cowboy was closer to happening than any of us ever thought. QB Matthew Stafford has listed his Detroit-area home, featuring a Detroit Pistons court, for $6.5 million. QB Cam Newton has still not found another NFL team. The Chargers reportedly gave him a look. Colts’ Reich expects QB Phil Rivers to play beyond 2020. Bills DT Oliver was arrested on DWI and gun possession charges. Two NFL cornerbacks, DeAndre Baker (Giants) and Quinton Dunbar (Seahawks), have turned themselves in to Broward County Sheriffs on Saturday, after partygoers were robbed by them at gunpoint at a Miramar, FL party. Party attendees alleged that at the party last Wednesday, the two NFL players stole thousands of dollars in cash and valuables from them, while armed with weapons. Each faces 4 felony counts. Michael McCaskey, president of the Chicago Bears, died 5/16, at age 76 of leukemia. Also, I’m not sure that I wrote about this, but the all-time winningest NFL coach, Dolphins’ Don Shula, died at age 90.

 

 

Tennis

 

 

The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134thWimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums.

 

 

 

Olympics

 

 

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Tokyo Olympics will begin in July 2021.

 

 

 

Fighting

 

MMA continues, despite the pandemic and fanless fights. This Saturday was UFC 249. Former WWE star Shad Gaspard has gone missing on Monday 5/18 at Venice Beach in California. Oh, make it stop, please…CBS reports that Mike Tyson (53) and Evander Holyfield (57) are working out the details of Tyson vs Holyfield III! They are both in tremendous shape and want to stage a 4-round charity exhibition fight (kind of like the end of Rocky III). Holyfield won the first fight between the two in November 1996. In the rematch, in June 1997, Tyson was disqualified after biting both of Holyfield’s ears in the fight, taking a big chunk out of one of them. Both of them have been separately talking about returning to the ring for short charity exhibition bouts, but now are intrigued about fighting each other again. Tyson had said that he would only return to fight against a “real boxer”, after turning down $3 million to fight New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams. Holyfield absolutely wants to fight Tyson, calling the potential fight a “win-win-win”, although he is even more interested in fighting Riddick Bowe, another old rival. I don’t know what the 3 “wins” are either. With both Tyson and Holyfield in their 50s, it may be unsafe for either of them to be on the receiving end of punches. Neither of them ended their careers well, with Holyfield hanging on to try to get one last heavyweight championship and failing, while Tyson finished with losses to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. I think it’s risky for them to do, although it would be a huge audience draw and would likely have a lot of action.

 

 

Soccer

 

 

All leagues are now discussing when to reopen and whether to have fans in the seats. Germany’s Bundesliga resumed soccer games 5/16, as Bayern Munich beat Werder Bremen 4-1. Irish Premier and AFC Champions League, and Ugandan Super League have yet to restart.  Costa Rican Primera Division Clausura has restarted. The games will be played in empty stadiums, which could influence the results, as the home team won’t have the advantage of its cheering fans. However, research shows that it has less effect on the players and a raucous crowd influences the referees more. We’ve certainly read about reports of some US restaurants putting mannequins in some seats, to reduce the awkwardness of half-empty restaurants and social distancing. However, South Korean soccer club FC Seoul has had to apologize after being accused of putting sex dolls in empty seats during Sunday’s match against Gwangju FC.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2ndquarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. The NHL is providing updates to the public every Monday. Although the 31 NHL general managers said they intend to resume the regular season in July, on-ice action remains on the shelf. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that ending the season without awarding a champion is “not something I’m even contemplating.” I’m glad for that, being a Bruins fan and that the Bruins were in first place overall. Luc Robitaille, Kings’ president, told season-ticket holders last Thursday that it seems the NHL is “leaning toward” jumping right to the playoffs, rather than concluding the regular season. The working plan is a 24-team playoff field, which would include the ‘bubble’ teams (just on the bubble of the 8 teams of each conference), Blackhawks and Canadiens. It is clear that there has been pushback to restart the season from the teams that are far outside the playoff picture and having teams reconvene at centralized sites for about a dozen regular season games. The NHL and NHLPA have a jointly appointed Return to Play Committee that was working over the weekend. Here are the issues that ESPN reports the Committee is working on:

  • How long they need for training camps?
  • What would be the playoff format?
  • How quarantine and testing procedures would work (for example, since Russia has seen a recent spike in cases, forced to self-isolate and for how long)?
  • What happens if someone tests positive?
  • How to accommodate the players’ wishes to bring their families to hub cities?
  • What to do about fans or fan noise?

 

 

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Basketball fans, unlike many of the other team sports’ fans, have had something new and interesting to watch, in the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance.Bob Costas says MJ’s legacy will grow after the documentary. MJ has been playing golf at the private course just below my balcony and has gotten his handicap down to scratch, with the help of coach Davis Love III. MJ just built his own private golf course just North in Hobe Sound, FL, not far from his new restaurant 1000 North in Jupiter, FL. The golf course, The Grove XXIII, is uber-exclusive, designed after Shinnecock Hills in NY, and only allows professional or former professional athletes. It actually has an ingenious double-helix routing that can be played as 4 9-hole combinations, as well as in shorter 3-6 hole loops. Unlike some of the other professional team sports, the NBA and the NBA players’ union agreed, in a poll, to restart the season, and have at least some regular season and then the playoffs. They will not formally decide in the month of May. A one- or two-site setup for teams is among the most likely scenarios, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, per ESPN. The Union and the NBA did agree on a deal that would begin with last Friday’s bimonthly paychecks to withhold 25% of player salaries in the event that games are formally canceled under the league’s Force Majeure provision in the CBA. Distance running coach at Michael Jordan’s alma mater, UNC, inspired by MJ, at age 30, just broke the world record for dribbling.

 

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.  Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity.

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARbegan the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results (you will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races have been postponed, some have been cancelled, and some have been replaced by other races):

 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, Darlington 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES at Bristol which was scheduled for 4/5

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15

6/10 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400-as scheduled

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-as scheduled

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegan with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. The reports are that they are thinking about 7/5 as a start date.  It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Fortunately, I never posted the original 2020 schedule, so I don’t have to update it. F1 is currently working with its promoters on a revised 2020 calendar with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races expected to differ significantly from the original 2020 calendar. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29.

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them:

 

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104thIndianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-POSTPONED

7/18 Iowa 300-moved to double-header with Monterey Grand Prix

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-

9/6 Grand Prix of Portland-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey-moved to double-header with Iowa 300

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race

 

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

 

American now has a major shortage of bicycles, as people in lockdown have taken to bikes to get around and to exercise. Many bike shops are out of bikes and have backordered thousands of them. The FAA announced new safety measures in response to Boeing 737-MAX crashes, that will be the new safety protocols aimed at enhancing the regulatory and certification process for all planes. However, despite the changes, manufacturers will still be entrusted to handle certain certification tasks. Royal Caribbean posted a big loss and drop in revenue today. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines both announced today that they are suspending cruises scheduled to depart in the month of July. I missed the flyover salute to healthcare workers two weeks ago, performed by a joint Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds team, as they flew down to Fort Lauderdale, then Miami, then looped back up the West Coast of Florida. They completely missed West Palm Beach. However, I have a chance to see another flyover this Saturday that will salute not only healthcare workers, but also honor first responders and the military for Memorial Day weekend. This “Salute Flight”, sponsored by Hyandai, will be made up of four US Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft (from the 482ndFighter Wing), (The Makos from Air Force Reserve Command in Homestead), and US Coast Guard MH65 Helicopter, and US Coast Guard C-144 Aircraft (from US Coast Guard Air Station Miami). The four aircraft will soar over 34 South Florida hospitals and the Coast Guard helicopter and aircraft will fly a separate route over 16 South Florida hospitals, all on Saturday, between 11:30am-1:30pm. Like the Blue Angels/Thunderbirds salute flight, this event is being organized by The National Salute to America’s Heroes and presented by Hyundai. Their Air and Sea Show had originally been scheduled to take place on South Beach over Memorial Day weekend, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. That show will resume next year on Memorial Day weekend. I see on the schedule that I have about a 7-minute window starting at 12:18pm to see them over my area. Rolls-Royce, which also makes aircraft engines, announced today that it will have to cut 9,000 jobs from its civil aerospace division, due to the COVID-19 crisis. It said that it will take “several years” for the airline industry to recover from the pandemic. Rolls-Royce employs 52,000 people globally. The US and Canada are expected to extend travel restrictions. The TSA will likely start taking your temperature before you board your flight. Cancun and Riviera Maya are reopening for tourists by early June. US-based airlines will resume operating international flights as early as next month. Elvis Presley’s Graceland reopens on 5/21. I saw this news item on NBC News last night and it has not gotten much media attention, there are some 100,000 cruise line crew members (including cooks, maids, shop keepers, entertainers, etc.) who have been stranded for more than 2 months on-board these cruise ships, unable to dock in international cities or even in the US, although passengers have been whisked away to homes or hospitals. There is general outrage from the crew members, and one, in fact, committed suicide.

 

 

 

 

Health News: 

 

 

As of this afternoon (5/19), globally, more than 321,459 people have died from COVID-19. More than 4.8 million people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 1,664,885 people have totally recovered, after getting COVID-19. The US has the most confirmed cases and most deaths, as well as most recovered from the virus. No.2 in number of confirmed cases is Russia and Spain has fallen to No.5 from No.2. No.3 in number of confirmed cases is Brazil, supplanting the UK, which has fallen to No.4 in confirmed cases. As for deaths from the virus, No.2 is now the UK with 35,421, No.3 is Italy with 32,169, No.4 is France with 28,025, and No.5 is Spain with 27,778.

 

 

 

The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 5/19, now exceeds 91,179. New York is by far the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 5/19, there have been 28,451 deaths in the state, while 61,681 people have recovered from the virus. COVID-19 now has two strains: L strain and S strain. The Federal Government released details about the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The new act expands family and medical leave requirements for all public and private employers with up to 500 employees. Under the new act, covered employers must provide: 2 weeks of paid sick leave for qualifying reasons related to COVID-19; and up to an additional 12 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave for employees who are unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

 

 

The US and Europe are now dealing with a rare, COVID-19-related Inflammatory Disease affecting children. The disease is referred to as PMIS and has been reported in parts of the US and Europe and reportedly some children have experienced organ failure. At least 3 deaths have been reported in NY.

 

 

LabCorp’s COVID-19 IgG Antibody Test is now available. If you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, your body will typically produce immunoglobulin G antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus, and this serology testing checks for that antibody. The test does not show if you have been exposed to COVID-19, because it can take 2-4 weeks after exposure to develop antibodies. So, this test is for individuals who think they may have had COVID-19 and do not currently have symptoms. It does not tell you if you have an active infection. There is a new contact tracing app that could become the model to save the world from the spread of COVID-19.

 

President Trump said Monday that he is taking the unproven malaria drug Hydroxycholoroquine as part of his personal fight against COVID-19, although he has repeatedly tested negative for the virus.  He is taking a great deal of criticism, since the drug is unproven and is known to have some potentially fatal side effects. Dr. Fauci has had to dismiss, once again, the theories that the COVID-19 virus was man-made or accidentally released from a Chinese lab. Some encouraging news, after panicky reports of people getting re-infected with COVID-19. Of the 447 South Koreans who had recovered from COVID-19 and then tested positive again for the virus, they were not contagious and did not get virus symptoms again. The tests may be picking up the antibodies they now have.

 

 

Okay, I was going to stop debunking myths, but here is a new one, so I thought I should address it. A social media post claimed that these 5 big box stores, despite interacting with thousands of people every day, have not had any COVID-19 confirmed cases AND they haven’t shut any stores (Walmart, Amazon, Kroeger, Target, and Costco). First of all, they have a total combined workforce of 3,314,000, and I believe it is statistically impossible that none of the employees have contracted the virus. The claim is false. There have been news reports about infections and deaths from COVID-19 at the stores in these chains throughout the US. Also, certain stores with high confirmed cases or multiple deaths have been closed by local authorities. The social media post also ‘shaded’ (trying to appeal to younger readers) the meat packing industry, which was also a false accusation. Of the nation’s 2,700 slaughterhouses, 13 meatpacking and food processing plants ceased operations over the last 2 months after employees tested positive for COVID-19, and some of the closures were temporary, according to factcheck.org.

 

 

Animal News:

 

 

Okay, no emails please from Apocalypse-theorists, but we are experiencing a pandemic, have had all sports shut down, earthquakes, and entering hurricane season, AND apparently about to see the reemergence of the vast army of 17-year cicadas. These nearly 1.5 million cicadas (per acre) are from what is known at Brood IX and are set to emerge from the ground in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.  They should start emerging at the end of the month.  Broods are typically regional, although some Broods overlap regions. Some broods are on a 13-year cycle and some on a 17-year cycle. The Broods do not emerge at the same time, thankfully. Cicadas are very destructive to orchards, vineyards, and ornamental trees, as well as being very loud. Ultra-rare metallic blue bees have been found in Florida. The species had thought to have gone extinct in 2016. Wild rabbits are dying in the US from their own kind of COVID-19 virus. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus Type 2 has spread across the southwestern US and killing rabbits of all species, for the first time in this country. The disease has killed “thousands” of rabbits in New Mexico alone, and will impact the entire food chain. According to new analysis by an international team of scientists, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has caused an enormous 17% drop in global carbon emissions in Q1. In fact, the impact of lockdown measures is likely to lead to the largest annual decrease in CO2 emissions since the end of WWII. Of course, climatologists say that the brief pollution break is likely to be “a drop in the ocean” in climate change and that 2020 is still on track to be one of the five hottest years on record. For the first time ever, Stonehenge will livestream its Summer Solstice celebration. The ancient, mystical site typically hosts one of the world’s most popular Summer Solstice celebrations, attracting thousands of people, including the druid and pagan community, on the longest day of the year (6/21) to watch the sun rise behind the Heel Stone, of this (perhaps) ancient sun dial. However, COVID-19 has forced the English Heritage organization, which manages Stonehenge, to come up with a different plan. Scientists have discovered a real-life Kermit the Frog in the jungles of Costa Rica. New species are discovered every day. Scientists have been working in the Talamanca Mountains for over a century, but it wasn’t until this year that they found a tiny, semi-translucent frog resembling a real-life Kermit the Frog.

 

 

 

 

Entertainment News:

 

 

We seem to be losing a lot of entertainers lately, and some of that has been because of COVID-19, as they were in the high-risk, elderly group.  Icon Little Richard died at age 87 of bone cancer. He was instrumental in the origin of Rock and Roll, with many hit songs (like “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Lucille”, etc.) Ken Osmond, the actor best known for playing the role of Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver, has died at 76. Former Kentucky first lady, the 50thMiss America, and pioneer of women sportscasting, Phyllis George, has died at age 70.   Canadian stage and screen actress, Monique Mercure, has died at age 90. Annie Glenn, American disability rights activist and philanthropist, died at age 100 of COVID-19, on 5/19. Willie K, an American musician, died at age 59 on 5/19. Brian Howe, English rock singer with Bad Company, died of a heart attack at age 66. Ty, British rapper, died from COVID-19 at age 47. Fred Willard, well-known actor of several sit-com TV shows and late night show guest, died at age 86.  The Viewco-host, Joy Behar, has vowed to stay home “until Trump is out of office.” Chris Stapleton just postponed his tour dates to 2021. Twilight actor and girlfriend have been found dead in their home. Prince Charles is encouraging people to “Pick for Britain”. Bruce Springsteen has agreed to join Boston’s Dropkick Murphys to remotely perform inside an empty Boston’s Fenway Park. The concert will benefit the charity Entertain This! Ryan Seacrest’s repo says that he is fine and did not suffer a stroke during the American Idol finale on Monday night. It appeared that is right eyelid drooped and that he was slurring his words. Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks, is getting creative with her time in quarantine. First, she donated antibody plasma to protect others from COVID-19. Then, she released a cool song for charity. Brian Austin Green has confirmed his split from Megan Fox, after 10 years together. Suzanne Collins has completed a new HUNGER GAMES prequel novel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” Mariah Carey and Melania Trump, among others, are marking their 50thbirthdays in 2020. Amid much press controversy, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are marking their 2ndwedding anniversary in Los Angeles. In case you are wondering, I am busy binge-watching Madmen,and watching Below Deck, and every spinoff of Dateline, 48Hours, and 20/20. Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero Tour 2020 has been canceled. Lionel Richie put together an all-star line-up to perform “We Are the World”, including new American Idol winner Just Sam and many other American Idol former winners. I feel like I need to highlight this one for potential employers (and maybe past ones too), Harvard Business Review wrote a piece that says side gigs can not only help pay bills and provide an outlet for a passion, but can also enhance careers and make the people better at their primary jobs. John Lennon’s Palm Beach estate has been listed at $47.5 million. Broadway theaters are expected to be closed at least until Labor Day. Unfortunately, some shows have already announcd that they are closing down for good.  I think, these theaters, as opposed to movie theaters, have more of an opportunity to sanitize each seat between shows. Oprah Winfrey donated $12 million in COVID-19 aid to her ‘home’ towns. I’ve mentioned in the Repo Commentary recently that drive-in movies and drive-in service restaurants (like the old A&Ws) are becoming popular again, especially in this pandemic shutdown and social distancing environment. There is a lot of buzz about concerts doing the same thing, with a drive-up stage. Now, news comes that this Summer, Yankee Stadium will be turned into a giant drive-in theater and concert venue. NY state gave drive-in theaters the green light to reopen on 5/15. Time Out New York announced a new festival-like event known as Uptown Drive-In that will take place in the Yankee Stadium parking lot. Starting in July, the parking lot will transform into a hotspot that’s part drive-in movie theater and part local concert venue. Attendees will be able to roll up in their vehicles and enjoy either a movie or a live concert, while eating food from popular street venders with the festival’s car-side dinner service. The sound for the movies and the concerts will stream from a PA system that can be listened to through car radios. The event is being produced by MASC Hospitality Group, the NY-based company behind the Bronx Night Market and the Bronx Beer Festival. VH1 show Love & Hip Hop’s reality TV star in Atlanta, Maurice Fayne “Arkansas Mo” used a $2 million emergency loan from the federal PPP to lease a Rolls Royce, make child support payments and purchase $85,000 worth of jewelry, according to authorities from the Department of Justice. Payne is the sole owner of transportation business Flame Trucking and he applied for the PPP loan in April. I did not know that there were still any Blockbuster videos. There is only one in the world and it is located in Bend, Oregon, and it miraculously survived Netflix, and is now surviving the pandemic. The owner buys DVDs and Blu-Rays of movies from local Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer, and other local retailers, since her local DVD distributor is long since gone. She reopened by offering curbside pickup for the first time in the company’s history, in which buyers would rent or purchase movies over the phone and a Blockbuster worker would clean the DVD case with Clorox wipes, put it in a Ziploc bag, and take it to their car.

 

 

Technology & Space News:

 

 

Astronomers announced the discovery of the first black hole located in a star system that is visible to the naked eye from Earth. Annie Glenn, widow of astronaut/senator John Glenn, has died of COVID-19 complications, at age 100. Uber announced that it will provide free rides to veterans to their VA hospital appointments. Some major banks are reportedly trying out new technology to help monitor employees’ use of private messaging app WhatsApp. This technology has been designed by Symphony and due to officially be released later this year. About 4 million Americans will receive their Stimulus check on a prepaid Visa debit card, issued by the US Treasury’s banking agent, MetaBank. The cards allow purchases in stores and online, as well as ATM withdrawals.  A majority of American Express employees will continue to work from home for the rest of the year, according to CEO Steve Squeri. This is an example of the pressure I have been writing about in the Repo Commentary for metropolitan office space leasing (NYC especially) and metropolitan residential rental space (NYC especially). The FBI has cracked an iPhone encryption and discovered al Qaeda links to a 2019 Florida Naval base shooter from the Royal Saudi Air Force. If you recall, this heads off a confrontation between Apple and the Justice Department over releasing customers’ privacy in the interests of national security. Visa lodged a patent application for a digital fiat currency in November 2019, which was just published on the US Patent and Trademark Office website. It would appear that Visa continues to have an interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. NASA is hiring, and you might qualify. Not for being an astronaut, probably, sorry. However, they are looking to recruit people for a new study, in collaboration with Russia’s Institute for Biomedical Problems, that will study how the human body might hold up to the physical and mental strain brought on by the long-term isolation space travelers would experience during a potential journey to Mars, on the heels of the pandemic quarantine. NASA is seeking for volunteers willing to be isolated in a lab in Russia for 8 months. Wow! Is this stay-at-home order the equivalent of that? Mastercard’s profits have fallen 7%, as its revenue has increased. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson just retired at 59, with a ‘golden goodbye’ staggering pension account worth $64 million, enough to provide him with a guaranteed income of $274,000/month for the rest of his life. It’s not all he received, as President Trump chose to call him out on Twitter for “heavily indebted AT&T” and that it “owns and presides over Fake News CNN”. I’m sure Stephenson didn’t give it a second thought.  Just as trailers for the new sitcom Space Force, have hit TV, the real US military sixth branch, the Space Force, just launched a secretive space plane from Cape Canaveral, FL. It is called the X-37B Orbital and little is known about it, besides that it will be carrying a satellite built by cadets at the US Air Force Academy. Green-tinged Comet Swan with an 11-million-mile-long tail is flying past Earth on its way to the Sun, and is visible to the naked eye. It will be at its brightest point by the end of May, if it doesn’t break up before then. It became visible last week. It will be best viewed from the southern hemisphere, but those in the northern hemisphere will still be able to see it low on the horizon in the pre-dawn hours. This particular ball of ice and dust visits the inner part of our solar system once every 11,597 years.

 

 

US News:

 

 

 

The President’s Plan to reopen the country, which outlined “Proposed State or Regional Gating Criteria” be met, prior to proceeding to Phased Opening, and then defined the Phased Opening’s 4 Phases that it suggested States follow, has not been strictly followed. State Governors have largely taken the reins of reopening procedures and have either loosely followed Federal plans or ignored them completely. However, the US Health Secretary said that there has been NO SPIKE in COVID-19 cases in the places that have reopened.

 

Here are the latest news items I have, regarding Reopening plans, by State:

 

 

ALABAMA-Gov. Ivey, on 5/11 put new rules in place, at least until 5/22, which include allowing non-work gatherings of any size, as long as people maintained 6 feet of social distancing, including houses of worship; allowing gyms, athletic facilities, barber shops, hair salons, nail salons with certain rules; retailers and beaches to reopen with restrictions; restaurants, bars, and breweries to allow on-property consumptions of food and drink with certain rules; but kept closed theaters, casinos, bowling alleys, and night clubs.

 

 

ALASKA-Gov. Dunleavy issued a 5 phase Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan, with Phase 1 implementation on 4/24 opening most non-essential businesses with safeguards, 25% capacity for most businesses (except outdoor), small gatherings of less than 20 people, social distancing and no waiting rooms, elective medical services, restaurants open but bars/theaters/bowling alleys/bingo parlors/gaming centers remain closed, interstate and international travelers still required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Alaska, and schools closed for rest of year. The Phase 2 began 5/8, with dine-in restaurants capped at 50% of capacity, bars at 25% capacity, and indoor fitness capped at 25%. Religious gatherings are now allowed, but with a limit of 50 people. The state also rules that anyone who sings should be 10 feet away from the nearest person.

 

 

ARIZONA-Gov. Ducey issued a Returning Stronger plan, which extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 with modifications. Retail businesses can begin curbside pickup on 5/4 and in-person operations on 5/8, with safeguards. Barbershops and salons have now been reopened. On 5/11, restaurants were able to offer dine-in services again. The Navajo Nation extended the closure of its government until 5/17.

 

 

*ARKANSAS-Gov. Hutchinson never issued a stay-at-home order, now has been issuing Directives on Resuming certain operations: large indoor venues 5/18, restaurant dine-in operations 5/11, elective dental service 5/11, barber shops/body art/cosmetology/massage/therapy/spas 5/6, large outdoor venues and houses of worship 5/4, gym/fitness centers 5/4, elective medical procedures 4/27, and camps 4/17. One of only 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

CALIFORNIA-Gov. Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that has no end date.  He just extended social distancing into June. He also made a pact with Oregon Gov. Brown and Washington Gov. Inslee on 4/13. On 5/4, the state announced that some retailers (clothing stores, florists, and bookshops) would be allowed to reopen with curbside pickup and physical distancing. Manufacturing and supply chain for those retail businesses would be allowed to reopen. On 5/13, LA County opened beaches for running, swimming, and surfing (but not sunbathing or picnicking). However, LA County is expecting to extend its stay-at-home orders for the next 3 months. Even if the orders remain in place through the Summer, the County will be gradually relaxing restrictions in a 5-step plan. On 5/18, the Governor said that nearly half of the states’ counties were moving into Phase 2 of the four phase state approach to reopening. This allows restaurants to have in-store dining and permits shopping malls to reopen. Professional sports will be allowed to reopen in the first week of June. California reportedly gave 150,000 undocumented workers $500 each for COVID-19 aid. Many undocumented workers in the US pay taxes, and have a taxpayer ID, but no Social Security number, so wouldn’t have been eligible for the $1200 Aid check.

 

 

COLORADO-Gov. Polis extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 5/27.  The state has transitioned to a “safer-at-home” order. Retail businesses can reopen with curbside delivery and elective medical procedures can take place. On 5/12, state park campsites reopened. On 5/25, the Governor said he will make a decision on restaurant reopenings.

 

 

CONNECTICUT-Gov. Ned Lamont extended the mandatory shutdown in the state until 5/20. CT has joined a coalition with the Northeast states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to coordinate reopening their economies. On 4/30, Gov. Lamont unveiled a 4-stage plan to start the re-opening on 5/20. He will include outdoor areas of restaurants and bars, outdoor museums and zoos, offices, and some retail outlets. He is also including, specifically, barber shops, hair salons, and other personal care businesses. Summer camps can open on 6/29 with limited groups of children to 10. Summer schools may reopen in July. Connecticut has the distinction of being the last State to begin reopening.

 

 

DELAWARE-Gov. Carney extended a stay-at-home order until 5/31. He also joined the above Northeastern state coalition.He announced 5/14 that state beaches and community pools would reopen 5/22, and ice cream trucks and shops on 5/15. On 5/18, the Governor expanded the ability for churches and other houses of worship to conduct in-person services with restrictions. According to this release, anyone 13-years-old or older is required to wear face covering and high-risk people, including those over 65-years-old, and anyone who is sick, should not attend in-person services.

 

 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-DC Mayor Bowser extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15. I don’t have any update beyond that.

 

 

FLORIDA-Gov. DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has been reopening certain businesses through much of the state, starting with the less-populated northern counties and moving South to the highly-populated southern Florida counties. There is still wide disparity in orders between counties. As of 5/18, the capacity of in-store dining at restaurants increased to 50% of capacity from 25% of capacity, beaches have been reopened (although with criticism, as thousands of people flocked to the beach and didn’t observe social distancing), some salons have reopened, and gyms/fitness centers were allowed to reopen (although only a few have reopened, I still can’t see how they are going to sanitize each machine between member use!). Hotels can also now operate at 50% capacity. But, bars, theaters, bowling alleys remain closed. The Florida Keys will finally reopen to tourists on 6/1. Checkpoints there will be removed then.

 

 

GEORGIA-Gov. Kemp issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has closed schools until the end of the school year. Although he felt that his state is behind the curve, more so than other states, because of lack of testing, he changed tacks on 4/24, opening gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage parlors, with certain restrictions. He created a new shelter-in-place order for “medically fragile and elderly Georgians” until 6/12. Bars, nightclubs and music venues remain closed for now.

 

 

HAWAII-Gov. Ige issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He has been extremely quiet since. On 5/7, the First Phase of the reopening plan was implemented, opening shopping malls, car washes, pet grooming, elective surgery, nonprofit organizations, and in-person retail businesses. On 5/15, he reopened some beaches to recreational activities. He is still discouraging visitors to the islands for now, with immediate 14-day quarantine for anyone out of state.

 

IDAHO-Gov. Little issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. His goal is for most businesses to open after that “Staged Opening” began, with Initial Stage on 5/1, Stage One 5/1-5/15, Stage Two 5/16-5/29, Stage Three 5/30-6/12, and Stage Four 6/13-6/26. In Stage Two, restaurant dining and salons are permitted to reopen.

 

ILLINOIS-Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order to 5/31. He reopened state parks, golf courses, retail stores and garden centers, as well as places of religion, keeping groups to 10 or less and social distancing. On 5/5, he announced a five-phase reopening plan. Phase 3, with manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons, won’t begin until 5/29, at the earliest.

 

 

INDIANA-Gov. Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order through 4/20, but then extended it to 5/1. He said he planned to take a phased approach to lifting restrictions. Stage 2 rolled out for most of the state on 5/4, allowing some essential travel and permitting social gatherings of up to 25 people. Retail and commercial businesses were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, as well as shopping malls. Restaurants and bars that serve food were allowed to reopen on 5/11 at 50% capacity, as could salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors.

 

 

*IOWA-Gov. Reynolds has not declared ANY stay-at-home order. However, she did issue an Emergency statement that closed all nonessential businesses until 4/30. She allowed 77 of Iowas 99 counties to reopen restaurants, fitness centers, retail stores, and enclosed malls at 50% capacity, and also lifted the ban on religious gatherings of more than 10 people. Counties where COVID-19 activity is higher had their closures extended to 5/15.

 

 

KANSAS-Gov. Kelly issued a stay-at-home order, which had been extended to 5/3, ended. The Governor allowed restaurants to reopen if they adhere to public health guidelines and 6 feet spacing for customers. Libraries and child care facilities may open. On 5/6, she opened dental services, campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities, and medical spas. Fitness centers, malls, and other retail in the 22 counties that had not eased restrictions on 5/1, were now allowed to open at 50% capacity.

 

KENTUCKY-Gov. Beshear issued a “Healthy at Home” order that will be in effect indefinitely. He has closed schools until at least 5/1. Last Thursday, the Governor released a new timeline for reopening state’s industries. On 5/22, restaurants with limited 33% capacity and outdoor seating. 6/1, movie theaters and fitness centers. 6/11, campgrounds. 6/15, childcare facilities, with reduced capacity. He said that later, maybe in July, bars and gatherings of up to 50 people may reopen. Customers and employees will be asked to wear a mask at every reopened and essential business. I wanted to point out that Kentucky released some prisoners, because they were in for lesser charges and in danger of COVID-19 contagion, but also announced that they were going to put ankle monitors on quarantine breakers.

 

 

LOUISIANA-Gov. Edwards extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15. Under a new order, malls in Louisiana will remain closed, but stores can offer curbside delivery. Restaurants can still do takeout and delivery orders, but also outdoor seating, but without wait staff. Churches can operate outdoors with tents without flaps. Salons, barbershops, bars and casinos will remain closed. He said the State has not met the thresholds set by President Trump.

 

 

MAINE-Gov. Mills issued a “Stay Healthy at Home” order through at least 4/30. She then extended that order through 6/11.  Gov. Mills announced on 5/8 a Rural Reopening Plan aimed at reopening certain additional business in rural Maine over the next 2 weeks. Under the plan, retail stores and restaurants will be permitted to open to in-store and some dine-in service. Retail stores in these specific counties are allowed to open on 5/11. Restaurants in these specific counties are allowed to open on 5/18. But, that does not extend to the cities or more populated areas of the state.

 

 

MARYLAND-Gov. Hogan issued a stay-at-home order with no end date. On 5/13, he allowed retail stores to open with 50% capacity, manufacturing operations to resume, barber shops and hair salons open with 50% capacity, and churches open with 50% capacity. Closed state parks and state beaches can reopen for people who are exercising.

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS-Gov. Baker issued an emergency order closing all nonessential businesses until 5/4. MA has joined the Northeastern states coalition. Gov. Baker decided to extend the timeline for nonessential businesses to 5/18. On 5/19, Boston Mayor Walsh said the city will reopen office spaces a week later than the rest of the state, which will reopen offices 5/25.

 

 

MICHIGAN-Gov. Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15.She outlined the 4 factors she will take into consideration before reopening the state. She, along with Governors from New York and Florida, has been particularly vocal during the pandemic, particularly in criticizing the President. Her plan of action has been met with daily protests in Lansing at her doorstep, with mobs of people waving guns and some with Trump signs. Although the Governor extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 on Friday, perhaps, because of the recent protests, she has relaxed some restrictions, like some outdoor activities and purchasing garden supplies. She also reopened golf courses and motorized boating (but only for people from the same household.)

 

MINNESOTA-Gov. Walz extended the stay-at-home order through 5/3. Minnesota did just open golf courses on 4/18.

 

MISSISSIPPI-Gov. Reeves (I think he is one of only two current Governors I have met personally) issued a shelter-in-place order which expires on 4/20. He announced this week that schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester. He also said that “There are still more sacrifices to be made.”

 

MISSOURI-Gov. Parson issued a “Stay Home Missouri” order through 4/24 and has made no plans to reopen the state.

 

MONTANA-Gov. Bullock extended the stay-at-home order through 4/24. He said last Monday that he will allow the state to reopen sooner rather than later. The Governor decided on Friday to lift its stay-at-home order on Sunday 4/26.

 

*NEBRASKA-Gov. Ricketts issued the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” order on 4/10, which ordered all hair salons, tattoo parlors, and strip clubs closed through 4/30, and all organized group sports cancelled until 5/31. Nebraska is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

NEVADA-Gov. Sisolak issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He is monitoring several parameters in his decision to reopen the economy. On Friday, the Las Vegas Mayor, already somewhat controversial, said she wants to open up the casinos and the Strip as soon as possible, “even if it risks some lives.”

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE-Gov. Sununu extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. Public and private schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

 

NEW JERSEY-Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order with no specific end date. NJ is part of the coalition of Northeastern states. He said “that no one is more eager to restart our economy than I am.”

 

NEW MEXICO-Gov. Grisham extended the state’s emergency order to 4/30. She is waiting for the peak to occur, before taking any actions.

 

NEW YORK-Gov. Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order until 5/15. NY has joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has been the most vocal Governor in the country during the pandemic and the one who has challenged the President the most (and vice versa). This past Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo flew down to Washington to meet in-person with the President, and they aired out some issues. Following the meeting, the President pledged to support NY and get the the medical supplies that they need. New York has moved towards the return of professional sports.

 

NORTH CAROLINA-Gov. Cooper issued a stay-at-home order until 4/29.

 

*NORTH DAKOTA-Gov. Burgum has only shut down schools, restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters and salons. ND is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

OHIO-Gov. DeWine issued a stay-at-home order in place until 5/1.

 

OKLAHOMA-Gov. Stitt extended a “Safer at Home” order for adults over age 65 and other vulnerable residents until 5/6. He is working on a plan to possibly open the state’s economy on 4/30. He is also allowing elective surgeries to resume on 4/24. On Friday, the Governor allowed hair salons and pet-grooming services to reopen.

 

OREGON-Gov. Brown issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date, until she sees a declining rate of active cases of COVID-19 and a return to normalcy.

 

PENNSYLVANIA-Gov. Wolf extended a stay-at-home order until 5/8. PA joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has seemed, like NY Gov. Cuomo, to be on the reluctant side to reopening his state’s economy. He said, “If it’s not in the best interest of keeping people safe, I’m not going to go along with it.” I could see this potentially becoming a moral, political, and revenue issue, as other states (Florida and Texas, for example) may be willing to reopen earlier, possibly to attract business away from the northeastern states coalition (which has happened to some degree previously due to state tax differences).

 

RHODE ISLAND-Gov. Raimondo issued an extension to the state’s stay-at-home order to until at least 5/8. RI has joined that Northeastern coalition of states.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA-Gov. McMaster extended his previous “State of Emergency” executive order through at least 4/27. He has said that, “We want to get all of these businesses going back as soon as we can.” The Governor has been opening up beaches slowly. The Gov. announced on Thursday that the stay at home order will end next week. The University of South Carolina has announced that it will begin in-person classes in August. I wonder how this will impact the prices for colleges? If the risk of contagion increases with in-person, does that mean the tuition is less expensive?

 

*SOUTH DAKOTA-Gov. Noem has refused to issue a stay-at-home order, despite the state’s COVID-19 cases spiking. SD is one of only 7 states without such an order. South Dakota’s Governor has been praised for her Sweden-like approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on herd immunity and sheltering only the at-risk population, while not cratering the local economy. However, on Monday, the NY Post reported that the confirmed cases in the state jumped from 129 to 988 since 4/1, when the Governor criticized other states’ “Draconian measures” of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. She even went on to say “South Dakota is not New York.” South Dakota is now home to one of the largest single clusters of COVID-19, with 300 workers at one pork processing plant of Smithfield Foods infected, according to the Washington Post.

 

TENNESSEE-Gov. Lee extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/30. He said that the state would be reopening the economy in May.

 

TEXAS-Gov. Abbott issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He said last Monday that only businesses “that will have minimal or zero impact on the spread of coronavirus will be the first to open up.” He intends to open some businesses on 5/1. Gov. Abbott and a top law enforcement officer on Wednesday publicly came to the defense of a Dallas hair salon owner who was jailed for 7 days, for defying virus shutdown order. When hair salons in the State were legally reopened, her first customer for a haircut was, none other than, Sen. Ted Cruz, showing his support. Texas has moved towards a return of professional sports.

 

*UTAH-Gov. Herbert extended the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive through 5/1. Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. Technically, UT is one of the 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

VERMONT-Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order which has been extended until 5/15.

 

VIRGINIA-Gov. Northam extended a stay-at-home order until 6/10. This is the longest such order among the 50 states, by more than a month.

 

WASHINGTON-Gov. Inslee extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. But he says he may soon loosen some restrictions.

 

WEST VIRGINIA-Gov. Justice issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date.

 

WISCONSIN-Gov. Evers issued a “Safer at Home” order that prohibits all nonessential travel until 4/24. Wisconsin just joined neighbor Minnesota in opening up golf courses on 4/18.

 

*WYOMING-Gov. Gordon did not issue a stay-at-home order, one of only 7 states that didn’t. A Wyoming strip club became one of the first to reopen in the country. On Friday night, they threw a “masks on, clothes off” party.

 

 

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected).  The 6,648,000 reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. On 4/9, Initial Claims jumped by 6,606,000.  Then, on 4/15, Initial Claims were up another 5,000,000, taking the four week total of new Unemployment Claims to 22,000,000. Many officials and economists had forecasted a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people, and that looks like a spot-on forecast.  On 4/23, weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported up another 4,427,000, taking the grand total to over 26 million. On 4/30, Initial Claims jumped another 3,839,000. On 5/7, weekly Initial Claims was up another 3,169,000, which at least was a decrease from the 4/30 reading. But, that brings the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown total since 3/14 to 33 million, more than forecasted. The Unemployment Rate is now 15.5% for the week ending 4/25.  That is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Looking at the ADP National Employment Report, business closures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic prompted private employers to lay off a record 20.5 million people in April. On 5/14, Initial Claims were reported to be 2,981,000 more, although less than the previous week, bringing the total since 3/14 to 36 million. That put the Unemployment Rate up to 15.7% for the week ending 5/2.

 

 

There is a search underway for a 16-year-old missing Ohio girl. Missouri is planning an execution of a death-row inmate. President Trump has removed the Inspector General of the State Department, Steve Linick. The Inspector General is basically the watchdog of the cabinet office. He joins 3 other Inspectors General that the President has removed: Intelligence IG Michael Atkinson, Defense IG Glenn Fine, and HHS IG. The Boy Scouts have been banned from planting American flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day, due to COVID-19.

 

 

On Friday, the SBA has finally released its PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. For PPP 1, The borrower is expected to complete the application and submit it to their lender, who will ultimately be responsible for assessing forgiveness. The borrowers were to have used at least 75% of the money received on payroll and job retention. The other 25% could be used for mortgage interest, utilities, and rent. The rules were not very clear, but should become clearer with this application. For portions of the loan that were NOT forgiveable, there was a 6-month reprieve on repayments and interest, but interest will be 1% and loan principal would have to be repaid within 2 years. Apparent already on the Application, is that the SBA wants to know any borrowers who received a loan in excess of $2 million. Those loans will be audited by the government and borrowers will be required to show the money was necessary to keep operations running and that they had limited access to other sources of liquidity. As I’ve written before, it may not be easy for some business models to spend 75% of the money on Payroll (restaurants, bars, etc.) and for others, it may be difficult to spend the money appropriately within the 8 week guidelines. Of course, not every borrower may be seeking to get full forgiveness, as the loan has a very low interest rate (1%) and does not have to be repaid for two years. As of 5/15/20, the SBA said that $191.3 billion of PPP had been thus far distributed and that the average loan size was $72,296. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Powell were being grilled by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, regarding the PPP, and how Treasury and the Fed are handling the economic downturn and the Crisis response. One of the things that a Congressional commission overseeing the Treasury’s and Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs is that the agencies detail what metrics they will use to measure the success of the programs. Sen. Marco Rubio, who chairs the Senate’s small business committee, is urging an extension of the PPP, as it nears the end of its 8-week timeframe, in which recipients must use their allocated loans. He feels the date is arbitrary and doesn’t fit with the real world situation. The Justice Department has issued subpoenas to US banks, demanding details of the loans they have made as part of a wider investigation into possible abuses of the PPP, according to Reuters. Sources say that the banks themselves are not being probed. The Federal Reserve has previously published the full details of the loans made up to 5/6 under the PPP. The data shows over 3,000 loans routed through almost 600 lenders nationwide. The SBA has also announced that $191.3 billion has so far been distributed under the PPP and the average loan is $72,296. Mnuchin has said that companies that made false certifications to receive PPP loans will face consequences, which may include criminal liability. One thing that hampered PPP 1 and now the additional $310 billion of PPP 2, and that is the technical glitches in the SBA’s E-Tran system, which was never designed to cope with the volume of applications it is receiving. Lenders are urging the SBA to fix their system and update it.

 

 

The Treasury Department has announced plans to reclaim COVID-19 stimulus payments that went to the estates of deceased individuals. The erroneous $1200 payments were due to the IRS relying on outdated records and because some taxpayers from 2018 had died since filing.

 

 

 

Bankruptcy News:

 

On 5/16, The Economist ran an article “US faces unpredictable rate of business bankruptcies”, citing that 2020 is already the worst year for US bankruptcies since 2009, but it is uncertain whether it will get worse or stop. OpenTable predicts that 25% of US restaurants won’t reopen, as restaurants lost more than $30 billion in sales in March and $50 billion in sales in April. Some analysts believe that a higher percentage of the more than 27,000 NYC restaurants won’t reopen. Speaking of restaurants, today, Truluck’s in Fort Lauderdale announced that it is shutting down for good. I visited a restaurant this past Saturday and one this morning. It was weird with half the seats not being seated, and half the staff and half the noise. Maybe one of the ways some restaurants will adapt is by going back to the 1950s and using the natural social distancing of drive-in restaurants with carhop service, in which servers rush food from the kitchen directly to your car window. They seem to be making a comeback. Of course, it sort of implies that people are okay again with eating in their cars. In California, where in 1950, drive-in restaurants were all the rage, both Mel’s Drive-In and Bob’s Big Boys have brought back the carhop services they provided in the 1950s, in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The difference between then and now is that the servers wear gloves, sanitize payment options, and staple shut bags of food or place in to-go containers, on the trays attached to the car windows. I’m guessing that the model won’t work for ALL types of food. Gimmicks may be another way for restaurants to go, like a Maryland restaurant that is putting customers in individual bumper tables (inner tubes) to help guests maintain social distancing.

 

There has been a trend over the last few years of large retail chains filing bankruptcy in recent years, certainly more recently due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but in the past year, more due to brick and mortar stores losing revenue to online retailers. Just in 2019, Destination Maternity filed in October, Sugarfina filed in September, Forever 21 filed in September, Fred’s filed in September, Barneys New York filed (for the second time) in August, Avenue filed in August, A’Gaci filed (for the second time) in August, Charming Charlie (for the second time) in July, FTD Florists in June, Sonia Rykiel in April, Roberto Cavalli in April, Z Gallerie (for the second time) in March, Diesel in March, Charlotte Russe in February, FullBeauty Brands in February, Payless in February, Gymboree (for the second time) in January, and SHOPKO in January. And, that was just in 2019. In 2018, we saw some major retail bankruptcies in David’s Bridal, Sears, Mattress Firm, Gump’s, Brookstone, National Stores Inc., Rockport, Nine West, Remington Outdoors (a gun manufacturer during the height of that industry because of the lawsuits stemming from 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre), Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, among others. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Pier 1 is just waiting to reopen stores to sell off assets. Now, the news is that after 58 years, Pier 1 is closing all 540 stores. Instead of selling assets at steep prices to the public, they will sell all assets in a court-supervised auction. Luckin’ Coffee stock began trading again, after being de-listed, and is down 32% in price.

 

So, I’m watching these sectors that you will see shortly, filing bankruptcy: gyms, restaurants, retail stores, and movie theaters, as all of these groups are going to have a challenge to change their business models to accommodate social distancing and gathering guidelines. I’m not sure how bowling alleys will survive either, since the hygiene looks impossible to me. Brick and mortar retail stores were already getting their revenues hammered by online sales, for the last few years. The scary thing, and I’m hearing this from an inside source, is that you have not seen the small businesses file yet, because many of them can’t afford right now to even FILE bankruptcy. Not only do some business sectors have companies that may need to adapt their business models, or not survive, but many of their former employees need to adapt their skillsets to survive in the new environment.

 

According to USA Today and 24/7 Wall St., these are the 23 American brands that might not survive COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Neiman Marcus
  • StubHub
  • C. Penney
  • AMC Theatres
  • Sears
  • WeWork
  • Crew
  • Frontier Communications
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Hertz
  • Steak ‘n Shake
  • Nordstrom
  • GNC Holdings
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Gold’s Gym
  • Chesapeake
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Dave & Buster’s
  • Party City
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods
  • Best Buy
  • Revlon
  • Gogo

 

 

International News:

 

 

Italy has reopened shops and restaurants, after 10-week lockdown begins to ease. The Iranian Navy frigate Jamaran accidentally struck an Iranian support vessel Konarak with a missile, causing extensive damage and killing 19 sailors, during a military training exercise. A gas leak in Andhra Pradesh, India, killed 13 people and injured over 1,000 others. China is calling President Trump’s fiery letter to the WHO, in which he threatens to permanently withhold US funding from the UN health agency,  “smearing”. Okay, I didn’t know where to write this, but Fanta is an odd beverage. For people in Thailand, strawberry Fanta is so revered that it is a popular offering at the country’s numerous shrines, according to atlasobscura.com. Thailand has become Fanta’s 4thbiggest market, ahead of both the US and China, particularly the “red water” flavor. The surge in cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Brazil is catching everyone’s attention. Officials believe the numbers may actually be higher. The crisis there has disrupted its iron-ore market and increased prices.

 

 

Florida:

 

 

 

Gov. DeSantis announced that Florida would enter full Phase 1 on Monday, 5/18. He allowed for gyms and fitness centers to be open, beaches to be open, and retail stores and restaurants up to 50% capacity (from 25% last week). However, he did not open up bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters, or concerts/gatherings. A Florida scientist has been fired for allegedly refusing to “manipulate” the COVID-19 data. I’ve written and there has been much discussion around business and individual bankruptcies due to COVID-19 crisis, but what about municipalities? It turns out that here in Florida, the city of Miramar has furloughed all 1,000 full-time employees, as it tries to make up for a $23 million budget shortfall. It also cut the pay to every police officer and firefighter by 20%. City officials say that tax revenues have dramatically declined, as a result of the economic impact brought on by COVID-19. Some cities and towns in Florida are trying to help out local restaurants. West Palm Beach and Boca Raton have increased zoning for outdoor seating for restaurants, allowing them much more space for tables and no capacity restrictions. The problem for restaurants is that even at 100% capacity, the business model’s margin is so thin, that it makes the bulk of its profits on the sale (and markup of 2-3 times) of alcohol. That is also where it pays the bartenders in tips. 25% or 50% capacity is not enough to earn a profit for most of the restaurants, especially those that have large bars or rely on sports broadcasts (since there are no sports yet). The sports bar chain Duffy’s has not reopened yet and furloughed all 1500 employees at the start of the quarantine. It is possible that they never reopen their 37 Florida locations. Some restaurants and salons have begun a somewhat controversial practice of charging an extra COVID-19 surcharge on each customer’s bill, of $2.19. It’s not clear where that money is going, but I assume it is to help with the expenses of keeping the restaurant open. I saw that it actually started in Missouri and that it reflects that food costs have jumped the most in 46 years. Mar-a-lago opened on Monday, 5/18. You may have heard that a week ago, when the Governor opened up Cocoa Beach, just south of Daytona Beach in Brevard County, throngs of beachgoers infiltrated the sand, ignoring social distancing, and leaving 13,000 pounds of trash on the beach. This prompted another crackdown on littering, increasing fines and enforcement. Officials in Broward County are not agreeing on whether gyms should be allowed to reopen. I still don’t know how they can make those notoriously dirty, germ-infested places suddenly sanitary. Miami-Dade county businesses have begun to reopen, but customers seem to be hesitating to return.

 

 

 

 

I am usually singing in Palm Beach County, FL, at least somewhere. My National Anthems for MLB came to an abrupt halt in mid-Spring Training, due to the pandemic lockdown. I still did some charity singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, but mostly just drive-ups in parking lots at restaurants. I will be doing more solo gigs as an Elvis Presley Tribute Artist, as restaurants and events open up more. I am moving away from gigs with the harmony group (after 12 years), as well as expanding my songs to other artists, besides Elvis (Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Josh Turner, Sinatra, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, etc.). I will keep you all posted.

 

 

 

Jokes and Such:

Repo Commentary-05/11/20

IMG_6765IMG_6768IMG_6771IMG_6772IMG_6773IMG_6775IMG_6777IMG_6778IMG_6781IMG_6782IMG_6784IMG_6785IMG_6796IMG_6797IMG_6799IMG_6809IMG_6800IMG_6804IMG_6805IMG_6806IMG_6807IMG_6811IMG_6815[1]IMG_6822IMG_6824IMG_6825IMG_6826IMG_6827IMG_6828IMG_6829IMG_6831IMG_6808IMG_6815IMG_6816IMG_6817IMG_6819IMG_6803IMG_6832IMG_6836IMG_6837IMG_6839

It is Day 62 (on 5/11) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, as some states start opening up, they are going to mess up my brand-new day counter.

 

 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

 

 

I mentioned that the book I ghostwrote last year, was finally published last week. I have just finished the first article I was commissioned for, once again as a ghostwriter. I am outlining another book, which will be a true story written by me.

 

 

I am still not retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am working with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available for hire as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. 

 

 

My Repo Commentary, however, is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week on Monday or Tuesday.

 

 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (05/11):

 

 

  • Hostess CupCake Day
  • National Twilight Zone Day (I feel like we are in the Twilight Zone)
  • National Women’s Check-Up Day
  • World Ego Awareness Day
  • National Technology Day in India
  • Statehood Day in Minnesota
  • Vietnam Human Rights Day
  • Eat What You Want Day

 

Another Public Service Announcement, perhaps too late, Sunday was Mother’s Day. 5/8 was the 75thAnniversary of Victory-in-Europe Day (WWII).

 

Some Famous People Born on 05/11 in History:

 

 

  • 1715-Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach, German organist
  • 1852-Charles Fairbanks, American journalist and politician
  • 1888-Irving Berlin, Belarusian-American pianist and composer
  • 1904-Salvador Dali, Spanish artist (my favorite artist)
  • 1911-Phil Silvers, American actor and comedian
  • 1933-Louis Farrakhan, American religious leader
  • 1983-Matt Leinart, American football player
  • 1988-Brad Marchand, Canadian ice hockey player
  • 1989-Cam Newton, American football player

 

 Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

The opening scene of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, in which James Bond skies off a cliff and opens a Union Jack parachute, amazed even The Royals. “I have never seen a reaction in the cinema as there was that night. You couldn’t help it. You could not help but stand up. Even Prince Charles stood up.”

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

“Homeschooling is going well. 2 students suspended for fighting and 1 teacher fired for drinking on the job.” –anonymous

 

 

 

 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

 

Oil prices closed at:

 

$74.34/barrel on 10/5

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09

 

 

 

 

Oil prices are a mess.  They have bounced off the lows from last week. It used to be that when oil prices rose, that was bad for the US. Now, that we are less dependent on foreigners and had a nascent shale and fracking exploration going of our own, oil prices needed to stay at a certain level to make it affordable for us to continue exploration. Needless to say, there goes our recently highly-touted “independence” in terms of oil. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has stopped falling and risen 5 cents in the past week, at $1.76/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

 

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

 

 

The USD has advanced strongly against all major currencies over the past week. The Euro/USD exchange was very close to the Maastricht Treaty low of $1.08. The CAD/USD is near historic highs.

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. Now, it has rallied sharply in the last few weeks, leading to its impending ‘halving event’. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split. The week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year.  In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. This will be the 3rd‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. There were strong rallies prior to the other two ‘halvings’ as well. ‘Halving’ refers to a programmed-in event in Bitcoin’s code, which reduces the reward per block mined by 50% every 4 years to control inflation. Following the halving, rewards issued will drop to 6.25 BTC from the current 12.5 BTC. I’ve heard the promotional material that halving events create lesser supply (half the payment for miners, so less supply of coins) and increase the media attention on Bitcoin and could lead to a rally. But, the charts from the previous halvings have shown more of a sideways move, even a drop in prices for one, and months later, a rally. You know, being a huge stochastics fan my entire career, I have always felt, naively, that any market, at any time, is operating in a pattern either predictable by stochastics or as the result of changing fundamentals. Except Bitcoin. I have not been able to recognize the stochastic patterns easily or correlated the fundamentals with market reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

China’s exports saw a shocking 3.5% rise in April, despite the global economic impact of the pandemic. However, imports fell. The SEC has voted unanimously to instruct FINRA and US equity exchanges to develop a national system for disseminating consolidated market data and to propose a method for governing it. Having data provided by 3 exchanges/providers has led to “inefficiencies and conflicts between [those exchanges’] commercial interests and their regulatory obligations.” A survey of hedge fund managers conducted by SS&C Technologies has found that 53% rely on alternative data sources, with 25% of them having done so for more than 5 years, per Pensions & Investments. PayPal saw Q1 profits fall 87.4%, but expects a strong rebound in Q2. Meanwhile, Square had an unexpected Q1 loss and warned about Q2. After working through the COVID-19 lockdowns and rules, many investment banks are likely to reconsider their pre-pandemic routines of frequent business travel and in-person meetings, as well as locating people in one place, in favor of conference calls and remote work. I’ve been saying this for 12 years! The intention of globalization is to make it safer to do business from anywhere at anytime. The EU is considering whether to create a dedicated agency or to give the European Banking Authority more authority to fight against money laundering. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has told clients of a wealth advisory firm bankers he speaks with to expect a wave of bankruptcies to deal a blow to the economy. I already reported that and go into more detail in a new section of the Repo Commentary below! He also reportedly has predicted tax rates on corporations and individuals will increase. Bloomberg Tradebook has settled a $5 million penalty, from the SEC, from charges that it routed a large number of transactions through unaffiliated dealers without informing customers between November 2010 and September 2018. BOE expects UK economy to revive from 30% output drop. UK banks want regulators to be somewhat lenient if errors occur with compliance while banks follow the government’s request to accelerate business lending during the COVID-19 pandemic. UBS investment banking joint head says that COVID-19 outbreak means bank mergers across Europe “will come a lot earlier than anticipated.” A post-pandemic increase in mergers and acquisitions next year will drive the process as whole industries rethink their business models. Hong Kong Exchange’s Li will step down as CEO next year. Central banks’ moves to erode high-yield debt taboo for investors could accelerate investment-grade fund managers’ departure from investment processes defined by credit ratings, which would transform capital allocation. US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report on US personal income and outlays, shows that personal income decreased by exactly 2% in March. The Personal Savings Rate, which is the percentage of income that people save, jumped to 13.1%, well above the generally recommended 10% and it is solid proof that people are not spending on discretionary goods and trying to save money for this continued emergency. Personal Consumption, of course, dropped 7.5% in March. In March, Consumer borrowing dropped $12 billion, the first decrease since August 2011. The Financial Times reported this morning that the aggregate Value At Risk (VaR) of the top 5 banks has risen to the highest point since 2011. Reuters reports that Members Exchange launch has been approved by the SEC. FINRA said that it may not have enough revenue to cover operating expenses this year and might have to draw on reserves. 2020 marks the 7thconsecutive year that FINRA did not increase member firm fees. China has eliminated a requirement that participants of the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program and Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program obtain an investment quota from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The administration has also simplified the procedure investors must use to repatriate securities investment income.

 

US Market News:

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets. A forecast just published by the Congressional Budget Office shows the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for months, the US unemployment rate will hit 16%, and the budget deficit will climb to $3.7 trillion. The sharp economic contraction is expected to continue through June, but a recovery will begin in Q3. The CBO expects, “state and local governments (at that time) will ease stay-at-home orders, bans on public gatherings, and other measures restraining economic activity.” Reuters reports that markets are increasingly hinging on COVID-19 vaccine expectations. Investors say that there is little chance of sustained economic progress without it. The markets are bobbing up and down with the daily headlines concerning vaccine tests. Data expected this week on the retail sector, industrial output, and inflation is likely to indicate a growing disparity between the frothy stock market and the economy.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, as regulators continue to resist reinstating the Uptick Rule, which disappeared after the Great Recession. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):

 

 

 

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20    24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

24,242.49 on 04/17/20

24,133.78 on 04/27/20

24,331.32 on 05/08/20

 

 

 

 

A 30% rebound on the S&P 500 since 3/23/20 has underscored the ways in which different markets appraise the outlook for the economy, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a disparity with the Labor Department data showing that the real economy has lost 20.5 million jobs in just April. The S&P 500’s forward price-to-earnings ratio has reached 21, the highest point since 2001 (during the Dot.com bubble), despite disappointing corporate earnings.

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

 

 

The US Treasury says it will increase the size of debt auctions for long maturities and will have the first auction of a 20-year bond be worth $20 billion, a bigger offering than expected. The department expects to borrow a record $2.99 trillion during Q2, more than any quarterly amount during the Great Recession. Fed’s Thomas Barkin said that the large volume of borrowing undertaken by the US government is necessary to respond to economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Barkin adds that it must be reexamined at some point and says that the US will need to get the deficit under control.

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

According to new numbers from the US Census Bureau and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, sales of newly built, single-family homes fell in March by 15.4%, a significant but expected drop. The pandemic stay-at-home orders drastically lowered sales activity for both existing and new homes. The median sales price of new homes sold in March dropped to $321,400. The biggest declines were in the Northeast and the West. ATTOM Data Services calculated that homeowners who sold their homes during Q1 of 2020 saw 33.7% return on investment, compared to the original purchase price. According to the MBA, weekly mortgage applications were up 12% from last week. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. They also have now expanded their temporary COVID-19-related policies to include the suspension of bulk sales and limiting remaining purchases to mortgages no older than 6 months. The measures also include suspending representation and warranty relief for employment verification and allowing remote notarization for originators in certain states, per National Mortgage News. Banks have been deluged by applications for refinancings, as a survey of 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates hit an all-time survey low of 2.66% (since 1990), according to Lendgo. Mortgage applications were up 7.3% from one week ago. 76.2% of total applications were for refinancings. However, home purchases were down in the first week of March over the first week of last March by 35%. According to the most recent monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index, availability standards tightened in March. Lenders have become more conservative and less willing to take on more risks.

 

 

Forbes reported that credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, said that commercial mortgage delinquencies may reach the Great Recession level. It predicted that CMBS loan delinquencies could spike between 8.25% and 8.75% by the end of Q3, coming close to the peak of 9.01% in July 2011. Just as a reality check, that delinquency rate stood at 1.31% in March 2020.  The most vulnerable businesses are hospitality, retail and student housing. Another area that could suffer is shopping malls. But, now that there are less lenders of private mortgages, less servicers, and less investors, the private label market needs Federal help. I am constantly seeing reports (and trying not to bury you with them, but just pick a general one as a summary) about the current housing market environment and how it is crushing independent mortgage banks. The Federal Reserve has been buying up US Treasuries and GSE MBS (GNMA, FNMA, FHLMC), which is driving up the TBA prices. IMBs normally would profit from originating in this environment, but they do not currently have the access to cash, while the big banks do. They just don’t have the liquidity. And, the IMBs/originators are get margin-called by their broker-dealers. Aggregators and warehouse lines have tightened credit parameters on their programs. Meanwhile, TBA counterparties have also reduced credit lines with IMBs, making it harder to hedge the mortgage pipeline.

 

Looking at Commercial Real Estate again, after speaking with my attorney and real estate friends on the ground, particularly in NYC, increasing commercial real estate vacancies from companies that realize that their people can work from home, is creating new challenges for urban real estate. In a 5/6 Bloomberg article, it was shown that new leases in NYC have sunk to the lowest Q1 level since 2009. The collapse began with the shutdown of businesses in March, but has been exacerbated by a market facing a surge of new offices. Now, many companies are delaying expansion plans and cancelling leases, as they re-think how much NYC space they actually need in a post-COVID-19 world. While that may be good for society’s progress and innovation and efficiency, it is not good for commercial real estate owners and landlords. Two of the largest NYC landlords have already seen more than $5 billion in market value evaporate. So, the question is, does conventional office setting need to still exist?

 

This morning, more bad news for the Mortgage bond market, as WeWork made an aggressive move to withhold/renege on rent or renegotiate terms on other rent payments, hammering CMBS, driving down prices of securities backed by the company’s payments, according to the Financial Times.

 

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

To make this more legible and easier to follow, I will provide the newest headlines in the Repo & Securities Lending market at the top in RED. The subsequent paragraphs of this section will include other issues and my thoughts on the market, for those who haven’t read them before. They will be updated, but won’t change as much as the first paragraph.  At some point, I will assume people have read parts of those further paragraphs and will trim them from the Repo Commentary.

 

 

 

Securities Lending Times reported that FIS appointed a new senior sales executive, Alexandra Bocking, who will focus on post-trade solutions to the DACH region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

 

GC repo rates continue to confound, trading with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range. Some of that is due to the massive RP operations and the massive QE buying. Right now, broker-dealers are giving $156.5 billion of their collateral to the Fed at the stop-out rate of 0.10%. The repo market is awash with cash. GC repo rates should move higher, maybe to the middle of the Fed Funds range, as the impact of this month’s issuance of $647 billion in cash management bills should sop up some of that extra cash. That’s only part of the $1 trillion that US Treasury is going to issue.

 

Scott Skyrm reports that after a tumultuous (my word, not his) March, the Agency MBS Repo market is almost back to normal, at least part of it. In March, repo rate spreads moved much wider between Agency MBS and US Treasuries, as did prices on the securities, generating margin calls for leveraged participants (asset managers, hedge funds, mREITs, etc.) Some of those leveraged participants were unable to meet their margin calls and their securities were liquidated, prompting some of the broker-dealers to reduce their Agency MBS repo books (balance sheets). Recently, those Agency MBS repo and US Treasury repo rates spreads have returned to near-normal 2-5bp. However, that is only dealer-to-dealer. Broker-dealers are still maintaining a wider collateral spread to customers and a wider bid-offer spread to cash providers versus collateral providers. Coupled with some of those still lowered Agency MBS repo balance sheets at some broker-dealers, leveraged collateral providers are actively looking for additional agency MBS funding counterparties. It seems like a really good opportunity for a consultant like me, with many contacts, who is an expert in peer-to-peer financing counterparties. Ironically, I have seen a lot more interest today for my proposed electronic solution or such!

 

 

The Federal Reserve has activated a temporary repurchase agreement facility that lets foreign central banks exchange US Treasuries for US dollars. This was an activity that many central banks and sovereign wealth funds were doing in the Repo market with broker/dealers, repoing their US Treasuries for term 1-3 months for US dollars, then taking those US dollars and buying their own currencies, propping those currencies up, until their own economies improved (or oil prices rose in some cases). But, with oil prices at historic lows, their economies struggling with the pandemic, and the apparent lack of liquidity in the term repo markets, the Fed felt it needed to step in with this Facility. Both the Facility and the term repos to broker/dealers are designed to be alternatives to them selling the US Treasuries outright in the market, something the Treasury Department and the Fed absolutely don’t want them to do.

 

 

The Fed Funds target of 0%-0.25% means that we are likely to see some negative repo rates for Treasuries that go Special. That also means we will have to watch those TPMG fails rates. On Monday, Overnight GC traded at 0.04%, at the low end of the Fed Funds target range, but that was with an injection of $449 billion from the Fed. That injection, so far, has only helped the Overnight market, and the yield curve rises dramatically for term repo, as does the bid/offer spread, similar to post 2008. Of course, this is a different market than 2008, as we only have 24 Primary Dealers, and, as Skyrm points out, $23.5 trillion in US Treasury issuance, compared to $10 trillion in 2008.

 

 

Bill Foley has begun a new Securities Finance TV, SecFinHub, featuring interviews and discussions with experts. I am looking forward to participating remotely.

 

I am hearing that the Federal Reserve may be working on resurrecting the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF), which was a subset of the successful TARP program, both from the 2008 Financial Crisis response in 2009/2010. I don’t have a list yet of the securities that the Fed will take in the proposed program, and am curious to see if they will take real estate loans.

 

 

In the Securities Financing industry, we are again facing a tsunami of acronyms in regulations and events, much like during the Financial Crisis. ESMA is delaying rules on failed trades by 2 more months. LEI rules are being postponed for emerging market securities, as nearly 50% of them still don’t have LEIs.  Even 10% of European securities don’t have LEIs.

 

ESMA’s SFTR Level 3

Brexit

EU Crypto Regs

FCA Crypto Regs

EC Cyber-attack Guidelines

FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II

CSDR

LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)

EISF

ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling

MUR

 

 

Well, “repo” is the lubricant of the money market system, particularly the issuance of US Treasuries and other bonds, and it only comes up in conversation among non-participants when the gears start squeaking or fail to function.  And, the last time the general public heard about “repo” it was during the Financial Crisis.

 

 

This is broadly what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms.
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in the last two FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008.

 

Having just moderated a panel at the IMN Securities Financing Conference 2/12-2/13/20, my panel and I were able to share with the audience the current state of ETPs, CCPs, and P2P securities financing, and painted, in no particular order, a current map below (this is based on what we have been able to ascertain, but may not be accurate or complete):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 billion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo.Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

CCPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

One of many developments that I thought was really cool to hear about at the IMN conference (among other things I will share with you over time in the Repo Commentary or in consultation), was the newly formed Global Peer Financing Association created by 4 of my larger pension fund clients (CALPERS, HOOPP, OHPERS, SWIB) to promote peer-to-peer financing, not only among pension funds, but potentially with other sectors too (such as SWFs, Central Banks, Insurance Companies). It is of course near-and-dear to my heart, as I had many discussions with all 4 about peer-to-peer securities financing, over the past decade. I am very happy to see this development, which includes rate negotiation, standardization of legal documents, a credit vendor’s service, and some indemnification for certain clients from a securities lending agent. I am very supportive of this effort and hope to be involved in its evolution.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

 

Similar to what I am doing for the Repo News section of the Repo Commentary, I will report news headlines in RED in the last paragraph of this Federal Reserve section. That paragraph will be preceded with other issues, timelines, and general information that will be updated, but will remain pretty constant, until I decide to trim them from the Repo Commentary. 

 

 

I’m a little surprised that at the end of last week, the Federal Reserve did an about-face regarding the replacement of LIBOR as an index for trillions of dollars of Swap Agreements, Repo Agreements, and other loan documents. As you recall, LIBOR was a rate that was supposed to be calculated by 16 international banks, averaging where they traded interbank loans in different currencies for different terms each day. It turned out that it was being manipulated by some of those banks, and many of those currencies or terms of interbank trades did not even trade on those days. So, it became very subjective. There were also alleged collusions and specific people and banks involved in the scandal, a few years ago. So, the Fed commissioned a taskforce, headed by former partner and good friend, Tom Wipf, to come up with an alternative rate that could be set from empirical data. There were several candidates, but they were leaning towards a repo provable rate. That rate was SOFR. Before my friend was named to the taskforce, I had been campaigning AGAINST SOFR, because I thought it needed more work to be inclusive of the buyside of the market, and that it was still too broker/dealer influenced. Here’s what I’ve been including in the Repo Commentary for years (and I had actually written a longer version for years):

 

“The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral.” See, picture the broker/dealer, if you will, as the traditional middleman/person in a securities financing transaction (repo or securities lending) between a company who has collateral (either bought on leverage or fully-paid for) and a company who has cash (either money fund investors’ cash, regulatory capital, or investment cash), who then applies a bid-offer spread to the 2 rates that they show to the collateral provider and cash provider, a spread that is wider percentage-wise, as interest rates go lower. Think of this bid-offer spread that the broker/dealer gets as their profit (although that’s very simplified). If you really want to know the INTEREST RATE, each day, where trillions of dollars trade (at least $3 trillion), then it would be the median or average middle of those two rates on each side of the bid-offer. But, if you only collect the below median rates of FICC, which are the broker/dealers trading with each other, and the Triparty offer-side rate to the Cash Providers (the offer side of bid-offer of the broker/dealers) captured by their main custody bank, Bank of NY Mellon, and don’t collect any data from the bid-side of the bid-offer spread, the collateral providers, how are you achieving a median price each day for securities financing transactions? Your bias in data collection will skew the rate you calculate to somewhere between the offer-side of broker/dealer repo and the median repo rate, by default. That’s overlooking the fact that the bid-side of the securities financing market also represents trillions of dollars in transactions that you are ignoring, but could use, to substantiate your index rate. That is the OBVIOUS problem, and I apologize to my former partner. He has been tasked with something that he has tried to ferret out and has tackled numerous obstacles. He has had the foresight, in the article I just read, to say they haven’t had enough time to be certain that this is when they should roll out the replacement rate. The other issue, I think is this recent volatility of repo rates that has perplexed the Federal Reserve. Optimally, they would like the replacement index to also replace the intention of LIBOR to capture yield curve risk (term) and credit risk in an average way. Throwing in various supply/demand characteristics, regulatory changes, balance sheet manipulations, and outright markets’ supply and demand, among other things, into the equation, moves you further away from the simple index you intended to have. Unfortunately, those influences, including the Federal Reserve and US Treasury’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic economic impact, have distorted the replacement index.

 

 

Well, at the 11thhour, the Federal Reserve realized that the markets were not ready yet to implement SOFR in place of LIBOR, and that the pandemic had taken bank resources away to other important issues, rather than SOFR implementation, so put a hold on SOFR. The new $600 billion Main Street Lending Program, which will buy debt from potentially hundreds of companies, requires a benchmark rate. Also, UK officials granted banks a 6-month extension to keep issuing loans based on LIBOR, which ultimately is supposed to be phased out/replaced by the end of 2021. So, the stimulus for the COVID-19 pandemic from several central banks has interfered with those central banks’ plans to replace LIBOR. So, as Tom Wipf said, this was a “practical consideration” by the Fed.

 

 

 

The Fed announced on 3/23 that the amount of liquidity available for it to buy US Treasuries and Agency MBS in the outright markets is now UNLIMITED.

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).

 

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.This facility, dormant by the middle of 2019, has seen a lot of action in the last few weeks, as cash providers have trouble finding enough repo collateral among their broker/dealer sources.

 

On 3/4/20, the FRB approved a rule to simplify its capital rules for large banks, still preserving the strong capital requirements already in place.  On 3/5/20, the FRB announced the termination of enforcement actions. It also postponed its 2020 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference because of COVID-19. On 3/6/20, the FRB published the Community Reinvestment Act. On 3/9/20, the Fed and other Governmental agencies encouraged financial institutions to meet financial needs of customers and members affected by COVID-19. The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the COVID-19 crisis. The FOMC set the Interest on Excess Reserves Rate (IOER) target to 1.10%, effective on 3/4/20.  They also voted to authorize and direct the Open Market Desk at the FRB NY, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) as necessary to maintain the Fed Funds rate in a target of 1.00%-1.25%, down 50bp.  The FOMC also instructed the Fed to continue purchasing Treasury bills at least into Q2 of 2020, to maintain over time ample reserve balances at or above the level that prevailed in early September 2019 (before the liquidity problems of year-end). The FOMC also directed the FRB to continue conducting term and O/N repo operations at least through April 2020 to ensure ample supply of reserves. The FOMC also directed the desk to conduct overnight Reverse Repo operations at an offering rate of 1.00% in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities in its SOMA account that are available for such operations and up to a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day.  If that wasn’t enough, the FOMC also directed the desk to continue to reinvest P&I from MBS securities it owns in Treasury securities, up to $20 billion per month, and to engage in Dollar Rolls and Coupon Swap transactions as necessary to facilitate the market.

 

The US Treasury Department is making $10 billion available to support businesses’ liquidity through outright purchases of CP issued by highly rated companies. The CP Funding Facility will be managed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY.

The Fed is encouraging banks to use capital buffers imposed by regulations to loan to borrowers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. Even I am losing count of how many trillions of dollars the Fed has hosed this economic fire with. However, the Fed wants the market to know, according to Bloomberg, that it still has plenty of ammunition available beyond the latest $2.3 trillion effort. For instance, the Fed has so far only used about 40% of the $454 billion in seed capital allocated by Congress for such efforts, which leaves it at least $250 billion, which used through the Repo market could be levered as much as 10-times that, to provide up to another $2.5 trillion of further relief. Now here’s a topic that I have harped on a few times before. A big difference from 2008 to 2020 in resurrecting the bailout programs and implementing the Fed tools from 2008, is that there are only 24 Primary Dealers now, down from 48 Primary Dealers. The pipeline has been constricted for all of those Fed programs to go through, particularly the liquidity programs of adding cash through monetary policy. Apparently, the WSJ this morning brought this up too, in one of their articles. They said that while hundreds of regulatory changes made after the 2008 Financial Crisis have made banks safer, it also constrained  (those that did not go out of business or consolidate) their ability to serve as a “conduit” for the Fed’s rescue programs.  “It seeps through the system more slowly.” As I have mentioned, it’s a combination of the reduction in number and size of those banks and their balance sheets, and their behavior and response. The Federal Reserve is eliminating a requirement that banks limit customers with savings accounts and money market accounts to 6 withdrawals a month without a fee. So, we have the FOMC 2-day meeting this week and I’m sure they will take the temperature on all of their emergency programs to stem the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, take inventory of their toolbox to see what tools they have left, and probably look at the IOER rate and Fed Funds target rate. They may decide to increase IOER from .10% to .15%, as Fed Funds have been trading on the low end of the 0.00%-0.25% target range.  The Federal Reserve is expected to reduce its $8 billion daily buying spree of US Treasuries and Agency MBS securities in the secondary market, down to $7 billion/day, this week. The market is now pricing for Fed Funds to go negative in February 2021! I know, it’s incredible! Somehow, futures players and term repo players have priced in that the Federal Reserve is going to have to Ease again and bring the Fed Funds target down to maybe -0.25-0.00 from 0.00-0.25. that would be a negative rate on giving someone your cash. I was going to say that it’s ‘not that foreign a concept’, but that would be wrong. It is not ‘typical’ of US monetary policy, in fact, never happened. But, it is ‘foreign’ in the sense that Europe and Japan have taken their monetary policy to negative interest rates. As my dear friend, Scott Skyrm, likes to say, it could be “the fear of Return OF Capital overweighing the fear of Return ON Capital.” Would you be willing to pay interest to be assured that your cash would come back to you, instead of being lost, rather than earning something on it, but maybe not getting it back? But, as we all know, especially those in the Money Fund industry, negative

rates have much wider implications. Reuters announced this morning that the Federal Reserve plans to add “Sensitivity Analyses” concerning pandemic disruptions to bolster 2020 bank stress tests. The Federal Reserve Bank of NY has appointed BlackRock as a fiduciary for as much as $750 billion in corporate debt as the central banks implements stimulus plans. PIMCO has been chosen to manage purchases of short-dated Commercial Paper, according to WSJ.

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

Last Saturday, a 5.5-magnitde earthquake was recorded off the waters of southern Puerto Rico and caused damage to buildings in Ponce.

 

Earthquakes above 5.5-magnitude, in the last few days:

 

05/10 5.6 Near East Coast of Honshu, Japan

05/08 5.6 Mid-Indian Ridge

05/08 5.5 South Sandwich Islands Region

05/07 6.1 Solomon Islands

05/06 6.8 Banda Sea (Indonesia)

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

 

It continues to be unseasonably hot in Southern California, even as far north as San Francisco (up to 90 degrees), but that should diminish into the weekend. San Fran may drop to the 50s and rain, in fact. The Midwest has been enjoying unseasonably warm weather of 70s, but that’s also going to come to a halt. The Polar Vortex is back, and will hit the Midwest and Great Lakes by Friday, and is then expected to unleash winterlike cold across the eastern half of nation, with snow likely in the Northeast, on the weekend.  It may even be historic. I can already here my friends in Maine complaining. I don’t think they ever got any Spring weather yet. The cold temps could settle in parts of the south and challenge record lows of May, in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Even Chicago, if it does not exceed 45 degrees, will set a record for coolest May high temp since 2005. Sure enough, New Hampshire and Maine got 6-8” by Saturday, and freezing temperatures devoured the Northeast. Rain pummeled the mid-Atlantic. In NYC, snow fell on Central Park, tying the record of 1977. Here, in Florida, it cooled off to the 80s from the recent unseasonably hot 90s and wind, but at least we have about 8 straight days of sunshine. That will end on Sunday, with some much-needed rain. The irony is not lost on the locals, as the State finally opens up restaurants, at least the outdoor sections, just as it starts to rain again.

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1stand ends November 30th. I want you to know that I am constantly searching for good or uplifting news, but at the moment, the majority of news items are on the negative side and almost all dealing with COVID-19.  Here is something different, but once again, while informational, kind of to the negative. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more -active-than-normal season, worse than normal. They expect about 12 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons.  We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. Did you know that commercial airplanes equipped with special air-sampling equipment provide an estimated 250 million observations annually, and now that many are grounded (some 64%), the National Centers for Environmental Protection and NOAA are not getting enough data, during one of the most active times of the year? And, despite plenty of bad news about COVID-19, on Friday, the official hurricane forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season came from CSU, giving us Floridians something else to worry about:  CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Also, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season.

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

Given that many sports have suspended or cancelled their events and seasons, this section of the Repo Commentary will still have less changes.  There are some discussions about realignment and starting seasons, with or without fans. I will update any changes in bold RED, so you can find them quickly.  For those not seeing different colors, they will appear at the end of each sub-section and be highlighted.  It is likely all team sports will look vastly different in this new reality. Also, it may be a long time or forever, until sports fans can view them in sports bars. I’m hoping this becomes the only section that I will have old news and new news, as I have trimmed the other sections down.

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The World Series went 7 games, and the Washington Nationals, who were in the Postseason for the first time, beat the Houston Astros, who had won the World Series in 2017.  The cool thing, from my perspective, is that they share the same brand new Spring Training facility right here in West Palm Beach, FL, and I sing the National Anthem for both teams several times during Spring Training, and I auditioned for both 2020 Spring Training for the Cardinals, Marlins, Astros, and Nationals. So, I’ve already had the honor to sing 3 National Anthems and “God Bless America’s this year, and I had at least 3 more to sing at. That would have broght my total of MLB games that I sang at, since 2003, to 156.  We were about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams were to be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. But, the COVID-19 put an end to Spring Training and delayed the start of the 2020 MLB regular season. It has also suspended all levels of MLB Minor League games. The 3 remaining Spring Training games that I was to sing the National Anthem at were also cancelled. All 30 MLB teams, today, each pledged $1 million to pay ballpark employees who aren’t able to work, until the season can open.

 

 

Rays minor leaguer Blake Bivens says he found out on Facebook that his wife, son, and mother-in-law were murdered. A’s All-star pitcher, Matt Keough, has died at age 64. Former A’s minor leaguer, Miguel Marte, has died of COVID-19 at age 30. A new report says that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are no longer pursuing a purchase of the NY Mets. MLB is still deciding how and when it will re-open and whether there will be fans in the seats when it re-opens. Interestingly, not only is how they will reopen, but also the realignment of teams, the antiquated stadiums of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s, and the possibility of new expansion teams (like Las Vegas) are topics on the table. The major issue is how to treat the team sport in a post-pandemic era, how to protect the players from contagion, how to protect the fans from contagion and/or screen the fans, and how to clean stadiums and implement social distancing. Will there even be fans allowed? How do the players, themselves, distance from each other? Also, there is the obvious question of how do they fit the 2020 regular season and playoffs into the rest of 2020 and where, given weather constraints?  My feeling is that the sport must adapt to being fanless, even if players are going to require canned audience noise, in order to play effectively. This will put a lot more emphasis on televising games and opening that up to the wider audience, which will lead to greater advertising revenues, but probably a huge reduction in players’ compensation. Not, that it isn’t high time for that. Remember what I said about the new Hero Paradigm. Pay ‘essential’ people in society comparatively more than we used to pay ‘non-essential’ people. On 4/29, USA Today reported that MLB was discussing a plan to start the regular season in late June, no later than 7/2, playing at home stadiums, but with realigned league. Three executives said that they plan to play at least 100 regular season games. But, there would be no fans in their stadiums, and it would likely be a 3-division, 10-team plan, in which teams play only within their division. This would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign teams based on geography, which was the original intent. The players seem to like the idea, as they could still play in their home ballparks and not have to travel as much. The players were opposed to playing the entire season in Arizona/Florida/Texas. This is what USA Today was thinking was likely:

 

EAST

NY Yankees, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins

 

WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners

 

CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers

 

MLB is considering how the 30 teams could refund COVID-19 postponements. As for not having fans in the seats, MLB and union officials have yet to have formal discussions about the ramifications of not having fans, ticket sales, and concession revenue. Last season, MLB attendance was 68.5 million and the average ticket price was $53. 3 owners told USA Today that they would refuse to play unless players were willing to take a pay cut. 4 other teams insist they would require financial relief from the players. So, there is optimism among executives that they may figure out a sliding scale depending on the loss of revenue, and they would revise their revenue-sharing plan. My guess is that MLB, like the other major team sports, will probably cut new deals with TV networks, since that will be the ONLY way fans can see the games, so games will be worth more to TV networks and somehow they have to expand coverage. I would think MLB Network, which already televises most of the games, but charges a princely sum to fans for the service, will have to rethink its pricing. Since their volume could jump substantially, maybe they will bring their season price of $199 down? Remember, attendance is not even close to the only way teams make money. MLB revenue was $10.7 billion in 2019, thanks mostly to its massive TV deal. One MLB team is already planning to cut 2021 payroll after the pandemic is over, according to CBS Sports.

 

MLB teams are likely to still return to their own Spring-Training facilities in Arizona and Florida when they resume workouts. They will have about 18-21 days before the start of the season in workouts.

 

There you go, and you read it in the Repo Commentary a month ago, when I said that the hero pyramid has been flipped and now maybe the true heroes will be paid closer to what they should and the non-essential ‘heroes’ would get paid what they deserve too.

 

 

 

Golf:

 

 

Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.  The PGA Tour started the Players Championship is went forward with the “fifth Major’s” first round, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and cancelled 5 other tournaments to come.  It also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.  The European Tour schedule for 2020 season was:

 

  • 11/28-12/1/19Hong Kong Open
  • 11/28-12/1/19Alfred Dunhill Championship
  • 12/5-12/8/19Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open
  • 12/19-12/22/19Australian PGA Championship
  • 1/9-1/12/20South African Open
  • 1/16-1/19Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
  • 1/23-1/26Omega Dubai Desert Classic
  • 1/30-2/2Saudi International
  • 2/6-2/9ISPS Handa Vic Open
  • 2/20-2/23WGC-Mexico Championship
  • 2/27-3/1 Oman Open
  • 3/5-3/8Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
  • 3/12-3/15Magical Kenya
  • 3/19-3/22Hero Indian Open
  • 3/25-3/29WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
  • 4/9-4/12The Masters
  • 4/16-4/19Maybank Championship
  • 4/23-4/26Volvo China Open
  • 4/30-5/3Estrella D. Andalucia Masters
  • 5/9-5/10GolfSixes Cascals
  • 5/14-5/17US PGA Championship
  • 5/21-5/24Made in Denmark
  • 5/28-5/31Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
  • 6/4-6/7Trophee Hassan II
  • 6/11-6/14Scandinavian Invitation
  • 6/18-6/21US Open
  • 6/25-6/28BMW International Open
  • you have to believe that I had no idea this would be so long and that I just wanted to be helpful/informational…
  • 7/2-7/5 Open de France
  • 7/2-7/5WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
  • 7/9-7/12Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
  • 7/16-7/19The 149thOpen (British Open)
  • 7/30-8/2Betfred British Masters
  • 7/30-8/2Olympic Men’s Golf Competition
  • 8/6-8/9UK event
  • 8/20-8/23D+D Real Czech Masters
  • 8/27-8/30Omega European Masters
  • 9/3-9/6Porsche European Open
  • at least I can keep this in the Commentary and just update it for the next year…
  • 9/10-9/13BMW PGA Championship
  • 9/17-9/20KLM Open
  • 9/25-9/27The 2020 Ryder Cup
  • 10/1-10/4Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
  • 10/8-10/11Italian Open
  • 10/15-10/18Mutuactivos Open de Espana
  • 10/22-10/25Portugal Masters
  • 10/29-11/1WGC-HSC Champions
  • 11/5-11/8Turkish Airlines Open
  • 11/12-11/15Nedbank Golf Challenge
  • 11/19-11/22DP World Tour Championship

 

Augusta National Golf Club, announced November 9-15 as the intended dates to host the postponed 2020 Masters Tournament. The PGA announced last week that it will begin playing tournaments again in June. The PGA Championship is still on for August, with or without fans. Ironically, this was the first year that this major was moved from August to May, and now they had to move it back to August. It is very possible that golf, for a while, will be played without fans in attendance. Golf industry leaders have unveiled a three-phase plan to safely reopen golf courses across America.

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs had not won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, 52 years ago, snapping the longest drought of any NFL team. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft, unless they trade it away. The Patriots currently have 12 picks in the Draft and only a backup as a QB.

 

 

The NFL is in touch with the White House and is meeting with owners, networks, and sponsors to determine when to start the 2020 regular season and whether to have fans in the stands. Legendary Dolphins coach, Don Shula, passed away at age 90, on Monday 5/4. Somehow, this flew below the radar, but the newly organized and debuted XFL, this time Vince McMahon’s pro football league, has officially field for bankrtupcy. Even though it had only debuted days before the COVID-19 crisis, it still lost tens of millions of dollars, according to TMZ. On Thursday, the NFL released its full 2020 regular season schedules for all 32 teams. It has cancelled international games for the 2020 season, to cut down on travel contagion risk. The NFL commissioner, Goodell actually cut his $40 million/year outrageous salary to zero and initiated staff furloughs and salary reductions. He also made cuts in NFL’s pension plan for the league office, and employees at NFL Films and NFL Network. Already changing this business model! Yes, the Bucs, who never get televised nationally, suddenly will be on TV a few times, with their new QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski. The Las Vegas Raiders debut will be against the Saints on MNF.

 

 

 

Tennis

 

 

In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24thto late September 24-October 4, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The controversial change may cause the French Open’s biggest winner, with 12 French Open titles, Rafael Nadal, to boycott the tournament. Apparently, the decision from leftfield by the Federation Francaise de Tennis was made without consultation with other stakeholders. There may be a schedule ripple effect on the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish just a week before, so the French Open may lose players, and the Laver Cup, which was supposed to be played in the same week that the French Open is moving to. The potential boycott from Nadal comes, not only because he may also choose to play in the US Open instead, but also because he and Roger Federer are the ones who champion the Laver Cup exhibition team competition, with the leading players of the world, a fan favorite. Federer is actually more likely now to skip the French Open, as he is returning from knee surgery at Wimbledon, and has been leaning away from clay tournaments. If enough top-ranked players skip the French Open, can it still be considered a ‘Major’?  The WTA suspended its tour until 5/2, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.

 

 

The 134th June 29-July 12 Wimbledon tournament was cancelled. It was the first time that this Major was cancelled since WWII. It will instead be played next year at its normal time, 6/28/21-7/11/21. Following the Wimbledon announcement, the WTA, ATP, and ITF postponed its matches another 5 weeks until 7/13. The US Open is still planning to play at its normal time in September, a week before the now rescheduled French Open. The tennis associations are still debating whether to have fans in the stadiums for matches.

 

 

Olympics

 

 

With the mounting pressure, the IOC finally announced that the Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until 2021. A virus has done what even a war couldn’t do; postpone an Olympics. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Tokyo Olympics will begin in July 2021.

 

 

 

Fighting

 

MMA continues, despite the pandemic and fanless fights. This Saturday is UFC 249.

 

 

Soccer

 

 

Soccer’s 2020 European Championship, scheduled for Russia, has been postponed for a year because of the outbreak of the virus among the Norwegian and Swedish football associations, on Tuesday. The Premier League suspended their season, as did most of the top European leagues.All leagues are now discussing when to reopen and whether to have fans in the seats. Germany’s Bundesliga is expected to resume soccer games 5/16. The games will be played in empty stadiums, which could influence the results, as the home team won’t have the advantage of its cheering fans. However, research shows that it has less effect on the players and a raucous crowd influences the referees more.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

After about 100 bowl games (it seems) over many weeks, the College Football Playoffs came down to 4 teams:  No.1 and unbeaten LSU made easy work of No.4 Oklahoma 63-28 on 12/28, and No.3 Clemson won a close battle over No.2 Ohio State 29-23, on the same day. That left LSU to play Clemson for College Football National Championship. Despite LSU playing in the New Orleans Superdome (so, a home field/crowd advantage), and having the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow, they were down in the 2ndquarter 17-7 to Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence, but came roaring back by halftime, and won 42-25, winning their first National Title since 2007.

 

 

COVID-19 caused the NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s sports. The NCAA then announced that seniors would have another year of eligibility to play in their sports. However, they then changed that to include ALL players, not just seniors, would have an extra year of eligibility. I’m not sure how that works…if the player was good enough to make it to the Pros, then they’re probably going to go to the Pros and forego their 5thyear, or they are already foregoing their senior or junior year to go to the Pros. If they weren’t good enough for the Pros, a 5thyear of eligibility isn’t going to make a difference and just cost them or their family another year of college tuition and room and board. I guess it really helps the athletes who were borderline good enough for the Pros or were coming off of injuries. They might need the 5thyear to prove to Pro scouts that they are worthy. The NCAA is calling Kansas’ violations “egregious and severe”.

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this season on 10/2/19.

 

We were approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should have ended again in June, and here were the current standings. In the Eastern Conference: in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are in first with a smoking 44-14-12 record (best in NHL with 100 points) after breaking the Flyers win streak of 9 games Tuesday night on Tuuka Rask’s birthday, with the Lightning in second (tied for 2ndbest record); in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are in first with a 41-20-8 record ( tied for 3rd best in the NHL), followed by the Flyers in second. In the Western Conference: in the Central Division, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are in first place at 41-19-10 (tied for 2ndbest in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rdbest in NHL) and the surprising Stars in third; in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights lead with a 39-24-8 record, and the Golden Knights are just ahead of the Oilers in second place. The Canucks, who had been leading the Division through most of the season, have dropped to 4thplace. The worst team in the NHL continues to be the Red Wings, boasting a dreadful 17-49-5 record. This too, all came to an end, with the season at least being suspended, with no games to be played for a while.

 

 

The 31 NHL general managers said they intend to resume their regular season in July. The postseason will likely begin in August and September, and the off-season will be just October, and then return to the next regular season in November. There will be some obstacles to this plan though, the most important one being ice conditions in the heat of the summer months. Another interesting obstacle is that a number of players’ contracts expire on June 30. The NHL itself has not decided what to do. The NHL also said that if it plays the games without fans in the ice rinks, they will have to pump in artificial fan noise, because this sport, according to them, is impossible to play without crowd noise. I don’t know, the Florida Panthers have been doing that for years. Russian KHL says it will not name a champion team. Ducks re-signed Djoos and Hakanpaa to 1-year deals. Panthers agree with 1strounder Denisenko. Sharks signed goaltender Melnichuk, 21, from KHL. Devils have given ticket holders refund or donation option. The Maple Leafs signed KHL’s top-scoring defenseman Mikko Lehtonen. ESPN did a study and found that fans favor sport returning without spectators, rather than waiting.

 

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. COVID-19 is having an impact on the NBA now, as the League suspended the NBA regular season indefinitely.

 

 

There was only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams were still jockeying for a playoff position. The current standings are: Eastern Conference had No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest were well behind; Western Conference has No.1 Lakers, No.2 Clippers, No.3 Nuggets, No.4 Jazz, No.5 Thunder, No.6 Rockets, and No.7 Mavs, and the rest were well behind.

 

Michael Jordan, who was just hitting on the driving range below my balcony yesterday, said that he thought the only player who could beat him 1-on-1 was Kobe Bryant. Speaking of Kobe Bryant, his wife opened a letter from Kobe, on her birthday Thursday.

 

 

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed.It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.  Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity.

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARfinally chose not to do ‘fan-less’ races and, instead, chose to postpone its race events through May 3, in accordance with safety protocols recommended by the CDC in response to COVID-19. Of the 3 major racing circuits, the NASCAR one has the potential to lose the most races in the 2020 schedule, perhaps as many as 10. Now NASCAR is expecting to start up their engines again, but without fans in the seats. Frankly, I thought the sport lent itself well to just being televised and, if they start up first among major sports, they are going to grab a lot of the sports fan audience. NASCAR announced on 4/30 that it would resume the season at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. There will be no fans in attendance at any of the races at Darlington.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results:

 

2/16 Daytona 500

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400

3/1 Auto Club 400

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400

playoffs:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That will be followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule.  Three F1 team members have been placed in isolation over COVID-19 fears.  The opening of the season has been delayed at least until 5/3, although they refuse to confirm date change for that race to later, despite the likelihood that the Dutch Grand Prix probably can’t be staged on 5/3.  F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins.  It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Then, COVID-19, upset the race schedule and also took down F1’s (FWONK) share price, initially down 25%, and now down 40% from it January 2020 high of over $48.00/share. I will be posting the 2020 Formula One calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

 

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas

3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000thGrand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas

5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton

5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen

7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton

7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim-won by Max Verstappen

8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest-Lewis Hamilton

9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Charles Leclerc

9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza-Charles Leclerc

9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore-Sebastian Vettel

9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi-Lewis Hamilton

10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka-V. Bottas

10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City-Lewis Hamilton

11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX-V. Bottas

11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo-M. Verstappen

12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit and its 2019 calendar and results (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  The season just ended, with Josef Newgarden coming in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. I will be posting the 2020 calendar when they post the updated one:

 

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-Josef Newgarden

3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta

4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato

4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi

5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud

5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon

6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden

6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi

7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud

7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden

7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-Scott Dixon

8/18 Pocono Grand Prix-Will Power (I love that name!)

8/24 Gateway Grand Prix-Takuma Sato

9/1 Grand Prix of Portland-Will Power (that’s all it takes)

9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca-Colton Herta

 

IndyCar Racing also hit the brakes on the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19. So, instead of the first race running in mid-March, the first race is now scheduled for 5/9, basically losing 4 races from the 2019 schedule.  Here is the updated 2020 schedule (unless it gets changed again because of the pandemic):

 

5/09 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis, IN

5/24 104thIndy 500, Indianapolis, IN

5/31 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, MI

6/06 Genesys 600 in Texas

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America

6/27 Indy Richmond 300

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto

7/18 Iowa 300

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500

9/06 Grand Prix of Portland

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

Macy’s 4thof July fireworks are still on, but they will be without fans. I’m not sure how that is going to work, are they preventing us from looking up? I also don’t understand how Macy’s files for bankruptcy, at least once or twice, closes most of its stores, but still puts on the Thanksgiving Day extravaganza parade and the 4thof July fireworks display.  Carnival Cruises announced on 05/04 that they plan on resuming a limited number of cruises out of Florida in August. I don’t know if those are the shorter Norovirus cruises or longer Coronavirus cruises. The Pentagon has released a video of Tuesday’s flyover by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. It’s actually two videos, one from the perspective of the Blue Angels squadron and one from the perspective of the Thunderbirds squadron. It is so cool! The flyovers over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were in honor of all the healthcare and essential workers fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now believed that a US Navy destroyer, operating in the Pacific Ocean, picked up COVID-19 cases from drug smugglers that it had picked up, according to the Secretary of Defense. How it had managed to get COVID-19 aboard the ship has been a mystery. National and State parks have started to reopen in the US, giving people a chance to get back in touch with nature. An Amsterdam restaurant came up with a unique way of keeping diners and enhancing their dining experience, while protecting them from COVID-19, by building individual greenhouses for each table:

 

 

 

 

Health News: 

 

 

More than 1.5 billion people around the world are still ordered to stay-at-home because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As of this morning (5/10), globally, more than 281,287 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 4,077,594 people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 1,394,509 people have totally recovered.  The WHO says the virus has spread to at least 175 out of 190 countries. Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, US, and France). Spain’s COVID-19 confirmed cases total of 223,578 as of 5/10, makes it 2ndonly to the US. Spain has had at least 26,478 deaths from COVID-19, which ranks it 4thin total deaths. Italy, suffered very early in Europe, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 219,070 as of 5/10, leaving it behind US and Spain, and UK, but ahead of Russia, France, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, and China, in that order of Confirmed Cases. Italy has had 30,560 deaths as of 5/10 from COVID-19, slipping to 3rd most behind the US and UK. This is the first time that I am seeing the UK surge to being on the map, No.3 now in confirmed cases (as of 5/10) of 220,449, and No.2 in deaths with 31,930.

 

 

 

The US is the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, at 1,320,362 (as of 5/10), almost one-third of the world’s total. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 5/10, is now 79,180, and highest in the world.  However, 212,534 (as of 5/10) have recovered from the virus. One of the reasons that the number of confirmed cases keep rising is because the US has now tested over 8.7 million people. The United States has about 4.3% of the world’s population at about 328,000,000 and more than 30% of the world’s COVID-19 cases.

 

 

New York is the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 5/10, there have been 26,670 deaths in the state, marking it 4th on the list of deaths if it were a country. Gov. Cuomo made a controversial directive ordering nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients. He, himself, has described nursing homes as a “feeding frenzy” for COVID-19, and other states (particularly New Jersey) have dealt with horrific findings in nursing homes recently, said that the facilities cannot challenge a state regulation forcing them to admit patients with the virus. However, he did say that the state would finally give nursing homes the COVID-19 tests for patients. In the Governor’s defense, he said that there are vacancies in nursing homes and similar facilities, and if the particular facility cannot provide adequate care for the patient, they can call the state Department of Health, who will transfer the patient. This reminds me of the approach by Sweden, in quarantining the ill and the most at-risk. At least 3,400 nursing home residents in NY state have died from COVID-19. The virus has spread like wildfire through many nursing homes across the Northeast. Pennsylvania joined New York and other states on 3/29 in ordering nursing homes to admit medically stable residents with the virus. I’m not a doctor (I just play one on TV) but putting people who are infected in an enclosed population of your highest risk elderly, seems like a bad idea to me. I think a month later, the devastating data of deaths in nursing homes shows that that was a bad idea. New York continues to take a beating from this pandemic, as a ‘shocking’ two-thirds of patients recently hospitalized in NY actually had been staying home. Is that a sign that the herd immunity thing works better?  A Cape Cod field hospital, in a gym at Joint Base Cape Cod, with 94 beds, has closed without seeing a single COVID-19 patient. There are still 4 other field hospitals in Massachusetts. As hospitals were overrun by COVID-19 patients in other countries, the US Army Corps of Engineers mobilized here in the US, hiring private contractors to build emergency field hospitals around the country. NPR reports that the cost of that endeavor was more than $660 million, and nearly 4 months into the pandemic, most of these facilities haven’t treated a single patient, in NY, Long Island, Chicago, Denver, D.C., Memphis, Miami Beach, Wisconsin, Michigan, NJ, and Detroit.

 

 

Here is an interesting story, in 4 US state prisons in Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia, Reuters reports, 3,300 inmates tested positive for COVID-19, and 96% of them displayed no symptoms. The figures suggest that people who are asymptomatic, contagious but not physically ill, may be the driving force in the spread of the virus, not only in US state prisons (that house 1.3 million inmates) but also in communities all over the globe. This calls into question whether only testing people who are suspected of being infected and showing at least 2 of the symptoms really works in capturing the spread of the virus. It also means we are drastically undercounting the number of cases. By the way, total incarcerated population in the US at all levels of imprisonment, in 2017, was nearly 2.3 million.

 

 

 

France is reporting having 82 heart incidents linked to using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. Hydroxychloroquine was the hot topic in terms of treatments for many weeks, but now the focus is on Gilead’s Remdesivir. Sometimes, you will notice that I catch you up on some news that I may have missed. I don’t know what that is, maybe I’m a pseudo-journalist, maybe I feel responsible, or maybe I’m just OCD. Here is something I failed to mention that was odd, when Vice President Mike Pence, who is the commander of the nation’s COVID-19 Taskforce, visited the esteemed Mayo Clinic, where some of the most ill patients have to go to get diagnosis and treatment, he was the only one in several photo ops who is not wearing a facemask. Mayo Clinic, decades before COVID-19, has a facemask wearing policy, which he totally ignored. Other people have commented on his close proximity to the President, when President Trump is giving his daily public briefings, again without mask, and apparently not 6 feet away. There is a mysterious illness among some 64 children in New York, by Wednesday, called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome, somehow associated with COVID-19.  The CDC is studying the Syndrome and the American Heart Association issued an advisory. French researchers think that nicotine patches may work as a treatment for COVID-19. The more we learn about COVID-19, the less we seem to understand. Originally, the disease was seen as a respiratory ailment, bringing fibrosis to the lungs. But, now there’s mounting evidence that COVID-19 can cause serious damage to the heart, to the neurological system, and to the kidneys. In addition, in young people, it has sometimes caused sudden strokes. There have also been reports of COVID-19 patients getting blood clots.

 

On Thursday, Forbes ran an article that laid out the case, from doctors and leading epidemiologists, that “the average healthy person does not need to have a mask, and they shouldn’t be wearing masks. There’s no evidence that wearing masks on healthy people will protect them.” In fact, if they wear them incorrectly, they can increase the risk of infection because they’re touching their face more often to adjust the mask. I had read early on that the idea of the mask was really to get you to stop touching your face an average of 90 times per day. The mask is actually ineffective at stopping droplets being passed in or out, since the virus is not transmitted through the air to be breathed in. The masks are actually designed for people who are sick to keep the droplets IN and not infect other people. To keep the virus out, you would need a respirator or a medical respirator that healthcare workers wear to treat highly contagious patients.

 

More than 700 employees at a Tyson Foods meat factory in Perry, Iowa, have tested positive for COVID-19, as the nation is already facing a meat shortage due to a supply chain problem. This was in addition to the nearly 900 workers at a Tyson Foods plant in Indiana that already tested positive for COVID-19. The company has been forced to slow production and close plants in Dakota City, NE and Pasco, WA. A Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, SD also closed in April after 2 workers died and 783 tested positive for COVID-19.

 

There has been much debate about how the WHO, countries, states, and counties have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and which responses were the best and which ones unnecessarily cratered small businesses and economies. There are the extremes with Sweden on one end of the spectrum and China on the other end, with the US somewhere closer to the China end, along with the rest of Europe. The best thing I’ve seen written on the subject, popped up today on my radar screen, an article written by the American Institute of Economic Research on 5/1/20, “Woodstock Occurred in the Middle of a Pandemic.” I encourage you to read this well-written article, to get a different perspective on the current COVID-19 pandemic in contrast to a very similar Hong Kong Flu pandemic in 1969, and wildly different approaches to containment of the virus. I was 9-years-old at the time and remember a bit about the Hong Kong Flu, but the fact that not many people do remember it, is partly because it was treated very differently. It was handled by the medical profession, not by politicians and soldiers, and it was hyped up by a frenzy-machine media. And, as the title suggests, there were a lot of other things capturing our national and global attention at the time: Woodstock Festival (which changed the course of music forever), civil-rights movement, Vietnam War, Apollo mission to the Moon, student protests, and the sexual revolution. Although, the H3N2 pandemic killed more people in the US than the combined total number of fatalities in both the Vietnam and Korean Wars, over 100,000 of a population of 200 million at the time (versus 79,000 of a current population of 328 million people for COVID-19), and most of the people who died were over the age of 65. Clearly, the medical profession felt it was dangerous mainly for a “non-concert-going demographic”. For more, here is the article: https://www.aier.org/article/woodstock-occurred-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic/

 

 

 

 

I’m keeping this Public Service Announcement in the Repo Commentary for readers, for now:

 

 

How do you know if you have COVID-19? The CDC says the following are symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

 

  • Severe sore throat that moves to the lungs.
  • Severe headaches (although not everyone is presenting with headaches)
  • Fever (although not everyone is presenting with a fever)
  • Oz, and celebrities confirmed, that if you don’t present a fever, you will lose the sense of smell and taste for the duration of the virus.This is a new symptom or tell-tale sign. After you have rid the virus, your senses of smell and taste return within weeks. This ‘anosmia’ is occurring in about 30% of the cases, those that are mild or moderate.
  • Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to). This dry cough is affecting at least 1/3 of all patients and feels like it is coming from the breastbone or sternum and feels like the bronchial tubes are inflamed, and may include coughing up sputum from the lungs.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive or stomach issues, which have been in about half of the patients.
  • Chills and body aches
  • Pink eye, about 3% of patients are experiencing conjunctivitis
  • Major fatigue

 

The CDC says the following are symptoms which are EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (this list is not all inclusive):

 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Sudden confusion or inability to wake up
  • Bluish lips or face

 

With the WHO globally and the CDC domestically urging “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they recommend the following steps (obviously certain states, cities, and countries have adopted even more severe measures):

 

  • Stay home if you are mildly ill with COVID-19, except to get medical care. Do not visit public places.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care, so that the office can protect themselves and other patients.  Be sure to get emergency care if you worsen or have any of those symptoms.
  • Oz says that there are signs that taking Vitamin C and Zinc at the first signs or even as preventive medicine, could be effective against COVID-19 infection and recovery. Of course, some other doctors have come out and said that there was never verifiable proof that Vitamin C or Zinc helped with other viruses or the common cold.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay away from others, as much as possible, including people in your home. Try to do as much ‘home isolation’ as possible, staying in a designated “sick room” with a separate bathroom, if available, and away from other people in your home.
  • Limit contact with your pets and animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19 from humans, it is still recommended for those with the virus to limit contact with animals, until more information is known.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you have COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
  • If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • If you are caring for others who are sick, you should wear a facemask.Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. On average, we touch our nose and mouth about 90 times per day, without realizing it.
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean in a dishwasher.
  • Daily clean disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your home, but only you in your “sick room” and bathroom. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
  • The CDC says that people with the following underlying health conditions BEFORE contracting COVID-19 are at higher risk (this is not a complete list):
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic lung disease or asthma
    • COPD
    • Heart failure or heart disease
    • Sickle cell anemia
    • Cancer or undergoing chemotherapy
    • Kidney disease and dialysis
    • Body Mass Index over 40
    • Autoimmune disorder
    • Recent transplant patients
  • Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
    • You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
      • You no longer have a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • AND other symptoms have improved.
      • AND you received 2 negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
    • Or, if you will not have a test to determineif you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
      • AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

 

Animal News:

 

 

There have been major furloughs at NYC’s American Museum of Natural History due to COVID-19. A 58-year-old woman in South Carolina, who had just finished doing a homeowner’s nails, went out back to a pond in the gated community and took pictures of and tried to touch an alligator in the water. The woman may have been a little tipsy from wine. She fell into the water, was bitten by the alligator, then resurfaced, grabbing a rope thrown by the homeowners, saying “I guess I won’t do this again,” and then was struck again by the gator and dragged underwater. She died of drowning, although her leg was badly torn up. A deputy who responded shot the alligator in the head. She is only the 3rdperson in South Carolina ever to die from an alligator attack. It is believed that COVID-19 found its way to America from Asia, China specifically. Another invader from Asia, an invasive species that is popping up all over the internet and social media, is the Asian giant hornet. The larger (2 inches) than normal “murder hornet”, as it has been dubbed, is our newest 2020 worry, although it is not really a concern for humans, but rather for our beleaguered bees. The ‘murder hornet’ seems to have no interest in humans, but loves the taste of bees. Bee populations have been decimated due to human pesticides and blight in the US, so they are ill-prepared for this hungry foreigner. These hornets apparently enter a “slaughter phase” during which they decapitate honeybees and destroy entire hives in the span of a few hours. The murder hornets were first found in December in the State of Washington, but have now been seen in parts of British Columbia, and seem to be moving East. The internet has latched onto another bizarre development of 2020, said well by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, who tweeted last Saturday, “Murder hornets. Sure thing, 2020. Give us everything. Hypno-frogs. Fecal blizzards. Toilet tsunamis. A CATS sequel. We can take it.” For those of you on San Francisco trails, be cautious, as rattlesnakes are now out and about. Have you read about the incredible increase in bird-watching because of the lockdown? Sometimes, I really don’t know where to put some news items, as you have probably noticed. So, there are some business coaches that now believe that to be a leader, one needs to be comfortable with “I don’t know” as an answer, which will make one less likely to lose their credibility and/or get side-tracked by poorly thought out initiatives. The same coaches now instruct leaders to turn vulnerability into a strength in the business environment.

 

 

 

Entertainment News:

 

 

Musical legend, Little Richard, who uniquely changed music, has died, at age 87. Richard Wayne Penniman was arguably the King of Rock n’ Roll with Elvis Presley. In the mid-1950s, Little Richard (and Chuck Berry) broke out red hot lyrics and signature guitar licks that changed music, leading to the menacing explosive music of Jerry Lee Lewis, and the phenomenon that was/is Elvis. Little Richard flaunted convention long before The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and established a showmanship foundation that gave rise to Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury and Prince. If we have to still name Elvis as the King of Rock n’ Roll, then Little Richard invented the role of the rock star, decades before it existed.  I will be the first in line for the inevitable biopic about Little Richard.

 

We lost another musical soul, literally the soul singer, Betty Wright, at age 66. Bessie Regina Norris is famous for Grammy-award winning “Where Is The Love?” and rolled out hits in the 70s and 80s, up through 1988. She never stopped though, and became a vocal coach on the reality series Making the Band. Last night, we lost another big star, comedian/actor Jerry Stiller, at age 92. He was one half of the comedy duo with his wife Anne Meera, who passed in 2015, and father to actor/comedian/producers Ben Stiller and Amy Stiller. Jerry’s career was revitalized with his famous role on Seinfeld. I was actually blessed to be at the NY Friar’s Club Roast of Jerry Stiller, at the Hilton Hotel in NYC in 1999, where Jason Alexander hosted and all the famous comedians showed up to roast his father. I wound up at Donald Trump’s table, sitting next to him the entire night. We had a lot of laughs and the entire black-tie evening was filmed by Comedy Central, and would air frequently for about 5 years. It was my first time meeting Mr. Trump, and he actually remembered my name the next time I saw him.  It was my 5 minutes of fame on TV, with the two of us on camera laughing at a handful of raunchy jokes. Katy Perry has been interviewed about her pregnancy hormones and the “COVID 30”. I thought it was COVID 15, referring to the 15 lbs everyone is gaining during the pandemic lockdown. I actually lost 8 more lbs during the pandemic, since 3/17. European cities, particularly those in Scandinavia, have launched drive-in concert series with great success. This has sort of taken after the drive-in movie rebirth.  All complies with social distancing and hygiene mandates of the pandemic. According to Forbes, up to 500 music fans in Aarhus, Denmark were able to enjoy a concert on a makeshift venue/stage from their cars. Now, there’s was on a specific FM frequency, so people could tune in their car radios to the concert. Lithuania has launched a similar drive-in set up to host concerts. I actually took part in a concert last week, with about 30 cars in a restaurant parking lot and their windows down. Pharrell just bought a $30 million mansion in Coral Gables. Philippine telecoms body, the National Telecommunications Commission, has ordered the country’s leading broadcaster ABS-CBN Corp to cease operations on Tuesday. President Rodrigo Duterte’s loyalists dominate the Parliament and he has repeatedly threatened to block the renewal of the franchise, after the channel angered him during the 2016 presidential election, by refusing to air his campaign commercials. Besides the sharp contrast to the American Right of Free Speech, one would think that it wouldn’t be a good idea to shut down the main media outlet during a pandemic, when you need to inform the public. Do you remember when Kanye West, husband of Kim Kardashian, was forced to file bankruptcy, because, although he was worth $100 million at the time, he had $53 million in debt? He needed protection from creditors. It actually doesn’t matter what your net worth is, as it doesn’t affect who is eligible for bankruptcy protection, and creditors can cause conditions that give rise to bankruptcy filings, like lawsuits, judgments, and liens. There can be garnished wages or assets seized or frozen. Filing bankruptcy stops all of those actions by creditors with a stay. I’m explaining all that because I have a new section below, specifically about Corporate Bankruptcies. Anyway, back to the Kanye story, just a few years after filing for bankruptcy, Forbes just announced that he was now worth over $1 billion. In fact, his clothing company is valued at over $3 billion. On Thursday, Brian Howe, Bad Company singer died from cardiac arrest, at age 66. Axl Rose and Lil’ Stevie have gotten into a Twitter spat, after Axl decided to attack Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Twitter. Axl has had a problem multiple times with President Trump playing GNR songs without permission at events. Spotify assembled a roster of actors from the HARRY POTTER movies, along with other celebrities, to read chapters of the books. Daniel Radcliffe kicked things off by reading chapter one. Here we go again, The Simpsons, in a 1993 episode, had a plot with the people of Springfield encountering a dangerous virus and killer bees, in the same episode. Well, bees aren’t ‘hornets’ and the virus wasn’t called COVID-19, but…This is sad, legendary magician and animal trainer Roy Horn, of the partnership/entertainment duo, Siegfried & Roy of Las Vegas, has died at age 75, from COVID-19.  I had the pleasure of seeing the two magicians shows and their amazing animals (especially tigers, lions and leopards) twice in Las Vegas, and their nearby zoo at least twice. I actually was in the front stage pit once and petted 600-lb Montecore, a Siberian tiger, who Roy led by on a 3-foot long leash. This is the same cat that was involved in the incident that injured Roy’s neck on stage during a performance in 2003, and shut down the show for good. It was never determined whether the big cat was attacking Roy or was protecting Roy, dragging him from the stage by the neck. Roy felt it was the latter, and never had Montecore put down and continued to live with him and the other cats roaming his estate with Siegfried Fischbacher. I watched Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy special, 23 Hours to Kill, and it was hysterical. The show was filmed at NYC’s Beacon Theater, which was near 5 of my apartments in my 26 years there. Despite my constant laughter, the show was actually panned by some critics. Jill Scott and Erykah Badu have delighted fans with an Instagram Live battle on Saturday night. These musical battles, kind of like The Voice, which I used to watch on network TV (before I discovered Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube TV during the pandemic), have become very popular between well-known performers for their fans. There was an active participant, self-proclaimed ‘hugger-in-chief’ Michelle Obama on Twitter. I’m sorry, I’m busy binge-watching Madmen, finally, after binge-watching Waco, Ozark Boys, and Las Vegas, in the past few weeks. In board games, I have graduated from Scattagory, to Cards Against Humanity, to Sequence. Enough about me, Mariah Carey, John Legend, and others honored Andre Harrell, the influential music mogul, who just died at age 59. There are instances, when I report something that actually is completely foreign to me, but I assume some of you younger people want to know (before you get off of my lawn!), Diplo has confirmed that he has welcomed a son Pace, his first child with Jevon King. Hopefully, that means something to someone reading. Dave Grohy, of Foo Fighters, says their new album is like David Bowie’s album “Let’s Dance”. Really. David Bowie, glam-king? Freddie Mercury’s idol? I have a friend who keeps telling me that he is “righteous”, which makes me say to him, “I don’t think people call themselves ‘righteous’. I think it’s like having someone else pronounce you ‘dead.’ Otherwise, it’s sort of self-contradictory. Gwen Stefani made her virtual Grand Ole Opry debut alongside Blake Shelton. Rachael Ray showed off her massive weight loss in a new photo. Alanis Morissette postponed her Jagged Little Pill tour. Princess Love has filed for divorce from Ray J. Bono unveiled the 60 songs that ‘saved his life’ for his 60thbirthday.

 

Technology & Space News:

 

 

I expected we would see this news, sooner or later, as less Americans are going out to restaurants, events, and bars, where they drink and may need ride-sharing home. San Francisco is seeing now a lot of Uber layoffs, following Lyft and Airbnb. Tesla is talking about restarting its Fremont, CA manufacturing plant, which would be a shelter-in-place violation. I know that I was paying attention to Cinco de Mayo, which fell on Taco Tuesday, the almost full moon, and my tacos and a margarita. So, I missed that Halley’s Comet brought a cool meteor shower on Cinco de Mayo. US and UK officials are warning of cyberattacks on hospitals and research facilities. Thousands of small businesses approved for PPP 1 loans through online lenders Lendio and Ready Capital have yet to see their money. The companies say that “outside factors” and the need for additional info from borrowers are part of the problem. Facebook’s Libra has named HSBC legal head as new CEO. Facebook unveiled its new “Supreme Court” for content, a 20-member new oversight board that will be tasked with determining what kind of content should be allowed on the social media platform. The panel will be headed by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former PM of Denmark. The board will decide for itself which content cases it judges. Scientists have developed a prototype plasma jet in hopes of advancing a technology that might one day be capable of powering commercial airliners. A black hole has been discovered within 1,011 light-years of Earth, by far the closest one. Scientists estimate that this black hole has about 4 times the mass of our Sun and its located in a star system that we humans can actually see with our naked eyes, according to National Geographic. We certainly noticed things that did not function during the pandemic, some of them because of the sheer volume of people in the same boat. But, did you notice, the Internet worked? Certain specific programs like bank loan applications, mortgage refinancing applications, unemployment online systems, etc. malfunctioned, but the overall Internet had no problems. Volvo will be turning out a self-driving car that features LIDAR. Google’s ‘The Keyword’ is an app that is getting kids comfortable using online tools to learn and read. I bet that many of you don’t even know what microfiche is, nor had to do research for a paper in a library using microfiche machines to look at old newspaper articles. Well, with some help from machine learning, a project led by the Library of Congress may lead to the full retirement of microfiche. The project organizes millions of photos and images from newspapers for more than 100 years. Spotify created a link to see which songs 2 people are listening to at the same time, thousands of miles apart. I’m not sure what the applications for that are. Sociologists believe that the future might bring more ‘in-app’ dating. I know there were some famous ad-men or maybe politicians who said something like, “any publicity is good publicity”. I think I’ve been accused of marching to the beat of that drum occasionally. Well, somehow, Elon Musk, makes the statement untrue, at times. Okay, we’ve been dealing with him up in our business, securities lending, trying the age-old complaint that securities lending is bad because it allows people to ‘short’ stock, which then brings down stock prices and hurts businesses, like Tesla. Of course, it’s the chicken and the egg, because many people short stock because the company’s earnings or forecast are poor, so already not doing well, and they expect the stock’s price to go down, so they short it to make a profit. Securities Lending is simply the grease that makes all liquidity work, not the fault of a company not doing well. But, anyway, he has brought up that old debate. Now, he is running afoul of the Governor of California, by lashing out after the state and the county blocked the early reopening of his manufacturing plant. He is not threatening to pick up and leave California with his manufacturing plant. He said he is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County, after a health officer said it wasn’t appropriate for the carmaker to reopen. Musk feels this whole shutdown has been “fascist” and he is seriously considering moving out of Fremont, CA. At least, he’s not blaming securities lending for this issue. BuzzFeed News reports that food delivery service, Grubhub, collected record fees of $363 million from January through March, up 12% from the same quarter a year ago. These fees, along with fees from other food delivery services, which often range from 15% to 30%, make orders less profitable for restaurants who expect to lose $240 billion due to the pandemic shut-down. San Francisco and Seattle recently implemented emergency fee caps on delivery services, but Grubhub has not reduced fees in other markets during the pandemic. NYC lawmakers have proposed capping delivery service fees at 10%. Consumers have filed a lawsuit against Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Postmates last month, accusing them of using their monopoly power to charge restaurants high fees that are then passed on to customers during the financially catastrophic pandemic, kind of like ‘up-charging’ or ‘surge pricing’ from ride-share services. Some restaurants have accused Grubhub of setting up shadow websites of the restaurants they deliver for, competing directly with those restaurants’ own websites for customers. I think it’s interesting that Uber’s business model has taken a beating from stay-at-home orders, but their Uber-Eats business model is booming.  An artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm combining brain MRI scans along with cognitive test, age, and gender data enabled an accurate prediction of Alzheimer’s disease risk. It even predicted better in diagnosing than neurologists.

 

 

US News:

 

 

 

As you know, the House of Representatives decided the COVID-19 threat was too high, so chose to take this week off too, and not return to Washington, D.C.  That wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but CARES 2 legislation, a mirror image $2 trillion package to CARES 1 (signed into law in March) is already on the table for them to consider. House Speaker Pelosi said that the Capitol physician recommended that they not come back.

 

The President’s Plan to reopen the country, after near complete lockdown, outlines “Proposed State or Regional Gating Criteria” that includes 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-like and COVID-19 Symptoms, 14-day downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 Casesor downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests, and Hospitalstreating all patients without crisis care and robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers (including emerging antibody testing) thresholds that have to be met, prior to proceeding to Phased Opening. The plan also has ‘recommendations’ for state preparedness and Federal help on sourcing testing and medical supplies for States. In the Phased Opening, where general terms will be interpreted specifically for each State or Region, PHASE 1, with continued sanitation protocols and strict physical distancing, would allow elective surgeries to begin, gyms to open, restaurants to open (but not bars), movie theaters to open, sporting venues to open, and places of worship to open. It would still encourage telework and return to work in phases and minimize non-essential travel. PHASE 2, with continued sanitation and distancing protocols, would still have all vulnerable individuals sheltering-in-place, but would allow non-essential travel, still encourage telework, reopen schools, still prohibit visits to senior care facilities and hospitals, and allow bars to open. PHASE 3, would lift all restrictions, as long as sanitation protocols and certain limits are followed.

 

 

Several states, starting 4/24, have made moves, not complying with Federal guidelines, and began reopening sections or completely. About a dozen other states, made moves the other way, extending their stay-at-home orders. By Sunday, some 43 States will have at least partial reopenings. With the disparity between state Governors and party affiliations, this section may prove to be valuable as a roadmap for the near future. Here are the latest updates on how each state is handling re-opening (or not):

 

 

ALABAMA-Gov. Ivey extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15. He has expanded the number of testing sites.  They have announced a task force to reopen the state’s economy. Will transition to a new Safer At Home Order, which encourages people to stay at home and follow good sanitation practices, reopens some businesses (with sanitation and social distancing guidelines), reopens all retail stores subject to 50% occupancy rate (with sanitation and social distancing guidelines), opens beaches (but no gatherings of 10 persons or more and people must be at least 6 feet apart), and opens up medical procedures.

 

ALASKA-Gov. Dunleavy issued a 5 phase Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan, with Phase 1 implementation on 4/24 opening most non-essential businesses with safeguards, 25% capacity for most businesses (except outdoor), small gatherings of less than 20 people, social distancing and no waiting rooms, elective medical services, restaurants open but bars/theaters/bowling alleys/bingo parlors/gaming centers remain closed, interstate and international travelers still required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Alaska, and schools closed for rest of year.

 

ARIZONA-Gov. Ducey issued a Returning Stronger plan, which extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 with modifications. Retail businesses can begin curbside pickup on 5/4 and in-person operations on 5/8, with safeguards. Arizona will allow restaurants to offer dine-in services in May.

 

*ARKANSAS-Gov. Hutchinson never issued a stay-at-home order, now has been issuing Directives on Resuming certain operations: large indoor venues 5/18, restaurant dine-in operations 5/11, elective dental service 5/11, barber shops/body art/cosmetology/massage/therapy/spas 5/6, large outdoor venues 5/4, gym/fitness centers 5/4, elective medical procedures 4/27, and camps 4/17. One of only 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

CALIFORNIA-Gov. Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that has no end date.  He just extended social distancing into June. He also made a pact with Oregon Gov. Brown and Washington Gov. Inslee on 4/13. On 5/1, Governor Newsom closed all state parks and beaches across California, despite the heatwave in Southern California. Authorities have been battling with skatepark/boardpark and dirt bike enthusiasts who continue to try to use public parks. The Governor has spoken to all the California police chiefs about enforcing his orders, particularly after thousands of people have been flocking to Orange County beaches. Gov. Newsom announced a new property tax relief order. COVID-19, according to MercuryNews, has blown a $54 billion hole in California’s budget. Gov. Newsom said that we are now moving into Stage 2 on his Resiliency Recovery Roadmap, during which some lower-risk workplaces can gradually open with adaptations. This includes: agriculture, auto dealerships, communications infrastructure, construction, delivery services, energy/utilities, food packing, hotels & lodging, life sciences, logistics and warehousing, manufacturing, mining and logging, office workspaces, public transit, real estate transactions, and retail (curbside pickup and delivery).

 

COLORADO-Gov. Polis extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/26, but many communities, especially Denver, extended that order to 5/8. The state has transitioned to a “safer-at-home” order. This includes requiring face masks in public places, resuming limited public masses, retail beginning curbside services, and bars and restaurants closed until June.

 

CONNECTICUT-Gov. Ned Lamont extended the mandatory shutdown in the state until 5/20. CT has joined a coalition with the Northeast states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to coordinate reopening their economies. Gov. Lamont felt it would take at least another month before they could make a decision on reopening. However, on 4/30, Gov. Lamont unveiled a 4-stage plan to start the re-opening on 5/20. He will include outdoor areas of restaurants and bars, outdoor museums and zoos, offices, and some retail outlets. He is also including, specifically, barber shops, hair salons, and other personal care businesses.

 

DELAWARE-Gov. Carney extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15. He also joined the above Northeastern state coalition. Retail stores can reopen for curbside business on 5/8. Salons and barbershops will also reopen on 5/8, but only serving essential workers.

 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-DC Mayor Bowser extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15.

 

FLORIDA-Gov. DeSantis (one of only two current Governors that I have met) issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has been a bit rogue, allowing disparity of orders among counties, not approving retroactive unemployment benefits, and pushing unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. He has closed schools until the end of the school year and cancelled graduation ceremonies. He has probably been the most active Governor in the US in defending his state borders from non-residents, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, and Louisiana. The Governor began slowly reopening public beaches, starting in the northern part of the state and moving southward. He promised in a briefing on Sunday to detail a slow reopening “pretty soon”. Again, on Wednesday, the Governor said that South Florida will be reopening “soon”, but gave no timeframe.

 

GEORGIA-Gov. Kemp issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has closed schools until the end of the school year. He feels that his state is behind the curve, more so than other states, because of lack of testing. He has made it clear that churches will remain closed, but just opened up the beaches. Despite his admission that his state has one of the lowest rates of testing, Gov. Kemp made a splash by opening gyms, tattoo shops, barbershops, nail and hair salons, massage studios, and bowling alleys to open up on Friday 4/24, to join the beaches that he already opened up. He wasn’t done though, as he also announced that theaters and restaurants could reopen on 4/27.

 

HAWAII-Gov. Ige issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He has been extremely quiet since. On 5/6, he announced Phase One, the stabilization phase of the state’s reopening and economic recovery. With restrictions, these are the businesses that can reopen: agriculture, landscape, auto dealerships, car washes, childcare services, pet grooming, observatories, retail and repair services, florists, and shopping mall retail and repair services.

 

IDAHO-Gov. Little issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. His goal is for most businesses to open after that. On 5/4, Gov. Little announced criteria and timelines for small businesses to apply for Idaho Rebound cash grants, totaling $300 million, which is the largest state direct cash support for small businesses in the country. He also explained the states “Staged Opening”, with Initial Stage before 5/1, Stage One 5/1-5/15, Stage Two 5/16-5/29, Stage Three 5/30-6/12, and Stage Four 6/13-6/26.

 

ILLINOIS-Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order through at least 4/30. He hopes that restarting production will go “industry by industry, and maybe company by company.” On Friday, the Governor announced that the stay-at-home order was extended until 5/31, despite pressure from Chicago businesses. But, he will reopen golf courses and some public parks on 5/1.

 

INDIANA-Gov. Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order through 4/20, but it may be extended. He is encouraged, but mentioned that the “new normal” after restrictions are lifted may include new measures such as taking employees temperatures at work, wearing masks, and physical distancing. Gov. Holcomb said he plans to take a phased approach to lifting restrictions. But, Marion, Lake and Cass counties will follow a slightly delayed timeline to begin. Retailers can open at 50% capacity on Monday (5/11 in Indianapolis). Hair salons and barber shops can reopen in 5/11 (5/18 in Indianapolis). Most restaurants on 5/11 at 50% capacity (5/18 for Indianapolis). Religious services on 5/8 everywhere.

 

*IOWA-Gov. Reynolds has not declared ANY stay-at-home order. However, he did issue an Emergency statement that closed all nonessential businesses until 4/30. This one of the states with probably the least restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, and one of only 7 states that technically didn’t issue a stay-at-home order. Effective 5/07, Gov. Reynolds eased COVID-19-related business restrictions in metro Des Moines’ Polk and Dallas counties and 20 other counties where cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing. The order allows retail stores and malls to reopen with certain limitations, including operating at 50% capacity and adhering to social-distancing and sanitation guidelines. Fitness centers can open by appointment only and my admit one person at a time.

 

KANSAS-Gov. Kelly issued a stay-at-home order, which has been extended to 5/3. She expects to see the state’s peak to be 4/19-4/29.Universities across Kansas are making plans to reopen their campuses, although classes will look a little different. Some intend to offer in-person classes in the Fall. Meanwhile, shuttered retailers, dine-in restaurants and offices in some parts of Kansas are reopening on Monday.

 

KENTUCKY-Gov. Beshear issued a “Healthy at Home” order that will be in effect indefinitely. He has closed schools until at least 5/1. Last Thursday, the Governor released a new timeline for reopening state’s industries. On 5/22, restaurants with limited 33% capacity and outdoor seating. 6/1, movie theaters and fitness centers. 6/11, campgrounds. 6/15, childcare facilities, with reduced capacity.

 

LOUISIANA-Gov. Edwards extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15. Gov. Edwards is planning on making a decision on Monday about whether the State will begin Phase 1 of reopening the economy.

 

MAINE-Gov. Mills issued a “Stay Healthy at Home” order through at least 4/30. Gov. Mills announced on 5/8 a Rural Reopening Plan aimed at reopening certain additional business in rural Maine over the next 2 weeks. Under the plan, retail stores and restaurants will be permitted to open to in-store and some dine-in service. Retail stores in these specific counties are allowed to open on 5/11. Restaurants in these specific counties are allowed to open on 5/18.

 

MARYLAND-Gov. Hogan issued a stay-at-home order with no end date.

 

MASSACHUSETTS-Gov. Baker issued an emergency order closing all nonessential businesses until 5/4. MA has joined the Northeastern states coalition. Gov. Baker has opened up golf courses.

 

MICHIGAN-Gov. Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15.She outlined the 4 factors she will take into consideration before reopening the state. She, along with Governors from New York and Florida, has been particularly vocal during the pandemic, particularly in criticizing the President. Her plan of action has been met with daily protests in Lansing at her doorstep, with mobs of people waving guns and some with Trump signs. Although the Governor extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 on Friday, perhaps, because of the recent protests, she has relaxed some restrictions, like some outdoor activities and purchasing garden supplies. She also reopened golf courses and motorized boating (but only for people from the same household.)

 

MINNESOTA-Gov. Walz extended the stay-at-home order through 5/3. Minnesota did just open golf courses on 4/18.

 

MISSISSIPPI-Gov. Reeves (I think he is one of only two current Governors I have met personally) issued a shelter-in-place order which expires on 4/20. He announced this week that schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester. He also said that “There are still more sacrifices to be made.”

 

MISSOURI-Gov. Parson issued a “Stay Home Missouri” order through 4/24 and has made no plans to reopen the state.

 

MONTANA-Gov. Bullock extended the stay-at-home order through 4/24. He said last Monday that he will allow the state to reopen sooner rather than later. The Governor decided on Friday to lift its stay-at-home order on Sunday 4/26.

 

*NEBRASKA-Gov. Ricketts issued the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” order on 4/10, which ordered all hair salons, tattoo parlors, and strip clubs closed through 4/30, and all organized group sports cancelled until 5/31. Nebraska is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

NEVADA-Gov. Sisolak issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He is monitoring several parameters in his decision to reopen the economy. On Friday, the Las Vegas Mayor, already somewhat controversial, said she wants to open up the casinos and the Strip as soon as possible, “even if it risks some lives.”

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE-Gov. Sununu extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. Public and private schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

 

NEW JERSEY-Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order with no specific end date. NJ is part of the coalition of Northeastern states. He said “that no one is more eager to restart our economy than I am.”

 

NEW MEXICO-Gov. Grisham extended the state’s emergency order to 4/30. She is waiting for the peak to occur, before taking any actions.

 

NEW YORK-Gov. Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order until 5/15. NY has joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has been the most vocal Governor in the country during the pandemic and the one who has challenged the President the most (and vice versa). This past Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo flew down to Washington to meet in-person with the President, and they aired out some issues. Following the meeting, the President pledged to support NY and get the the medical supplies that they need.

 

NORTH CAROLINA-Gov. Cooper issued a stay-at-home order until 4/29.

 

*NORTH DAKOTA-Gov. Burgum has only shut down schools, restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters and salons. ND is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

OHIO-Gov. DeWine issued a stay-at-home order in place until 5/1.

 

OKLAHOMA-Gov. Stitt extended a “Safer at Home” order for adults over age 65 and other vulnerable residents until 5/6. He is working on a plan to possibly open the state’s economy on 4/30. He is also allowing elective surgeries to resume on 4/24. On Friday, the Governor allowed hair salons and pet-grooming services to reopen.

 

OREGON-Gov. Brown issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date, until she sees a declining rate of active cases of COVID-19 and a return to normalcy.

 

PENNSYLVANIA-Gov. Wolf extended a stay-at-home order until 5/8. PA joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has seemed, like NY Gov. Cuomo, to be on the reluctant side to reopening his state’s economy. He said, “If it’s not in the best interest of keeping people safe, I’m not going to go along with it.” I could see this potentially becoming a moral, political, and revenue issue, as other states (Florida and Texas, for example) may be willing to reopen earlier, possibly to attract business away from the northeastern states coalition (which has happened to some degree previously due to state tax differences).

 

RHODE ISLAND-Gov. Raimondo issued an extension to the state’s stay-at-home order to until at least 5/8. RI has joined that Northeastern coalition of states.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA-Gov. McMaster extended his previous “State of Emergency” executive order through at least 4/27. He has said that, “We want to get all of these businesses going back as soon as we can.” The Governor has been opening up beaches slowly. The Gov. announced on Thursday that the stay at home order will end next week.

 

*SOUTH DAKOTA-Gov. Noem has refused to issue a stay-at-home order, despite the state’s COVID-19 cases spiking. SD is one of only 7 states without such an order. South Dakota’s Governor has been praised for her Sweden-like approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on herd immunity and sheltering only the at-risk population, while not cratering the local economy. However, on Monday, the NY Post reported that the confirmed cases in the state jumped from 129 to 988 since 4/1, when the Governor criticized other states’ “Draconian measures” of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. She even went on to say “South Dakota is not New York.” South Dakota is now home to one of the largest single clusters of COVID-19, with 300 workers at one pork processing plant of Smithfield Foods infected, according to the Washington Post.

 

TENNESSEE-Gov. Lee extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/30. He said that the state would be reopening the economy in May.

 

TEXAS-Gov. Abbott issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He said last Monday that only businesses “that will have minimal or zero impact on the spread of coronavirus will be the first to open up.” He intends to open some businesses on 5/1. Gov. Abbott and a top law enforcement officer on Wednesday publicly came to the defense of a Dallas hair salon owner who was jailed for 7 days, for defying virus shutdown order. When hair salons in the State were legally reopened, her first customer for a haircut was, none other than, Sen. Ted Cruz, showing his support.

 

*UTAH-Gov. Herbert extended the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive through 5/1. Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. Technically, UT is one of the 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

VERMONT-Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order which has been extended until 5/15.

 

VIRGINIA-Gov. Northam extended a stay-at-home order until 6/10. This is the longest such order among the 50 states, by more than a month.

 

WASHINGTON-Gov. Inslee extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. But he says he may soon loosen some restrictions.

 

WEST VIRGINIA-Gov. Justice issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date.

 

WISCONSIN-Gov. Evers issued a “Safer at Home” order that prohibits all nonessential travel until 4/24. Wisconsin just joined neighbor Minnesota in opening up golf courses on 4/18.

 

*WYOMING-Gov. Gordon did not issue a stay-at-home order, one of only 7 states that didn’t.

 

 

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected).  The 6,648,000 reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. On 4/9, Initial Claims jumped by 6,606,000.  Then, on 4/15, Initial Claims were up another 5,000,000, taking the four week total of new Unemployment Claims to 22,000,000. Many officials and economists had forecasted a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people, and that looks like a spot-on forecast.  On 4/23, weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported up another 4,427,000, taking the grand total to over 26 million. On 4/30, Initial Claims jumped another 3,839,000. On 5/7, weekly Initial Claims was up another 3,169,000, which at least was a decrease from the 4/30 reading. But, that brings the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown total since 3/14 to 33 million, more than forecasted. The Unemployment Rate is now 15.5% for the week ending 4/25.  That is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Looking at the ADP National Employment Report, business closures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic prompted private employers to lay off a record 20.5 million people in April. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress may need to consider a guaranteed income to help people meet their basic needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

 

There was a late report about PPP 1 that missed my last Repo Commentary, the NBA Los Angeles Lakers even got a loan of $4.6 million from the first $349 billion. They decided to give it back. Yeah, I would too, that’s a little too public, for a team that is the 8thmost valuable sports team in the world, worth an estimated $3.7 billion. It turns out that 3 huge hotel companies owned by a Texas entrepreneur received a total of $69 million from the program. He and about 200 other larger corporations are still holding on to the money from PPP 1. In fact, the hotel owner, Bennett, said defiantly that he was keeping it. On the other hand, after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s stern warning, 42 public companies are returning the SBA loans.

 

 

For PPP 2, which launched (4/27), the SBA has limited each bank to 10% of the funds available, $60 billion per bank, attempting to more evenly distribute the loans. Still, there are probably other tweaks that Treasury and SBA could make, to make sure the loans reach small business owners. I think they should reduce the maximum loan size and change the way the banks are paid, rather than a sliding scale based on principal amount of loans. A group of Senators from both parties now wants the administration to let recipients of the PPP loans to be able to spend up to 50% of the money on non-payroll expenses, rather than only 25%, and still receive debt forgiveness. Some members of Congress are proposing ways to deliver aid to businesses and individuals in CARES 2 legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic that do not involve banks as the intermediaries or application process. One proposal would use the IRS while another proposal would have the Federal Reserve create an account for every American to deliver them funds, according to the NY Times. Speaking of PPP 1 and PPP 2, the SBA watchdog fears that the PPP rules will burden borrowers, particularly in complying with the forgiveness eligibility. Did you know that, despite PPP 1 being gobbled up in less than 14 days, PPP 2 still has about 40% of funds remaining still available. Some small businesses have been looking elsewhere, because of the problems with the application process and concerns about the requirements on forgiveness.

 

 

This is an odd piece of news, those hoarders who grabbed up tons of toilet paper, thinking (I guess) that there was not going to be anymore, and they could sell it to neighbors at an inflated price, now want their money back.  Costco has said ‘no’ to returns. I am hearing from my friends with Internet businesses that they are having phenomenal results during the quarantine, in some cases tripling or quadrupling their normal volumes. However, they all express frustration right now with Amazon, who wouldn’t take stockpiles in, because they were focused only on PPE, and so now that they are taking orders for non-PPE, they don’t have supplies to ship out, so there are significant delays. I know that I ordered 2 sets of masks about 5 weeks ago on Amazon, and they still haven’t arrived. I’m guessing that they will arrive, right when the quarantine order is lifted. Ironically, this world reset may have cured me cold-turkey, without a 12-step process, of my Amazon Prime addiction. I can’t say enough about Publix grocery stores down here in Florida. First off, they are not only the anchor store to many shopping plazas here, but they are usually also the landlord to the other shops in the plazas, owning the entire plaza. Early on in the quarantine, they told those shops that their rents were suspended. They have continued to work hard with customers on increasing levels of cleanliness and use of PPE and social distancing. Now, since they heard farmers were having trouble, due to restaurants being closed and distributors not ordering as much, Publix announced on Thursday that they will buy all of the excess food that the farmers have and donate it to the food banks.

 

Which brings up another interesting topic, one you have heard me speak about for over 12 years, disintermediation. We have discussed the Fed disintermediating the primary dealers with its RPP program, the international corporations disintermediating the money funds in Europe to go to the international banks directly, the P2P happening between insurance companies and money funds in the US, which was a subset of the P2P that I continue to work on. But, I had this fascinating discussion with this Editor of a Food & Wine magazine, who said disintermediation has come to the food industry. With yachting and restaurants being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, wholesalers of high-end food products have lost their natural customers. Some restaurants are still purchasing for their Take-Out Order business or delivery business, but the numbers are down substantially. The worry for the farmers and wholesalers is that many of the restaurants that are closed may not re-open in the future, permanently changing their revenue landscape. The savvy ones though had begun doing Internet ordering for retail customers at wholesale prices. This is the basic tenet for P2P in our business, mid-market rates because there are less middlemen or pieces of the pie to be shared (which you know I’ve been pushing for 12 years!). In this case, it’s the restaurants who are the middlemen, who work a kind of bid/offer spread of prices between the wholesalers/farmers and the retail public. The wineries have been doing direct customer business for years, bypassing the 100-300% markup of liquor distributors and then of liquor stores. I think it’s interesting, confirms my belief in what I was pioneering in our industry, and may be the future of other industries. I’m not sure how the surviving restaurants will feel about it, but much of the cache of restaurants is how well they PREPARE or COOK food, the ambience of the establishments, the friendliness and service of staff, and the crowd. For that, the public will likely still pay a price. However, my anecdotal report from Cinco de Mayo with a famous Mexican restaurant chain here in West Palm Beach was not positive. There were at least 70 of us standing outside the restaurant for hours, waiting for orders that we had ordered days before. Somehow, that didn’t work well. And now there’s more news, as meat packing businesses and farmers are having trouble delivering meat products to market. The supply chain is broken, causing fast food giant Wendy’s to stop selling hamburgers and some grocery stores to have empty meat sections. The farmers say that it isn’t a supply problem, the meatpackers are having a problem with many of the employees having tested positive for COVID-19. So, the problem is the supply chain. President Trump signed an executive order to compel meat processing plants to stay open last week, using the Defense Production Act. He is also going to provide liability protection for the meatpacking companies. Several major farmers are now retooling themselves to sell meat directly to retailers or public, and bypassing the typical supply chain. Another example of disintermediation. Clorox factories are working around the clock to try to meet a 500% increase in demand for antiseptic wipes. Yet, they are generally absent at most stores right now. Another example of a disintermediation and P2P business is Airbnb, which bypasses the typical hotel chain to house travelers.

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is working from the hospital, after being admitted Tuesday night with a gallbladder infection. The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed assumed Democratic Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden. The Washington Post and NY Times both wrote scathing articles about President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. He, reportedly, has taken on a key role in guiding the President on combating the pandemic, heading up a “shadow task force” of his own, which has utilized volunteers from consulting and private equity firms, with little experience in healthcare, procurement or supply-chain operations. None of them had relationships with manufacturers or an understanding of customs requirements or FDA rules, according to the Post. Basically, both articles said that there was little or no progress and no procurement of PCE equipment. Three members of the White House COVID-19 taskforce, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Vice President Mike Pence is not planning to enter self-quarantine after his press secretary tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and plans to be at the White House on Monday.

 

 

As you know, we have an Election coming up, including for President of the United States. But, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, some experts are devoting their attention to HOW we will do that voting, safely and with social distancing. What’s funny is that, initially, these experts questioned if the postal system could perhaps handle voting by mail from so many people, forgetting that the US military has shown voting by mail works, since the Civil War. That could be the model for November. Of course, the President could cancel the 2020 Presidential Election, although it is unlikely he would do that. If he did, his Presidency would END on 1/20/21. It turns out, according to a Constitutional lawyer, Trump’s Presidency ends whether he wants it to or not on 1/20/21, unless he is re-elected. The House would end their terms on 1/3/21, without re-election. The Senate can actually be appointed by Governors, without elections. Therefore, the Senate Pro Tempore would become President. However, he is currently a Republican, and once all the Senators currently up for re-election are not re-elected because the election was cancelled by the President, most of those up for re-election are from states with Democrat Governors, so the majority in the Senate would likely switch to Democrat, and the new President Pro Tempore would be a Democrat. Historically, that seat is held by the longest held seat. In this case, it would be Patrick Leahy. Learn something new everyday, especially in the Repo Commentary! A military official who serves as President Trump’s valet has tested positive for COVID-19. President Trump again has tested negative, as has VP Mike Pence.

 

 

Some financial experts are referring to this pandemic shutdown and relief efforts as the beginning of ‘the biggest legal transfer of wealth in US history’. The nominee for National Intelligence Director, Rep. John Ratcliffe, is doing a 180 on whistleblower protections, now that he’s under the Senate confirmation spotlight. He was nominated for the 2ndtime by President Trump on Tuesday. He now promised protections for whistleblowers and showed support for the intelligence community. Previously, he had many times accused intelligence agencies of “bias” and “prejudice” toward President Trump. The first COVID-19 death of a ICE (US immigration) detainee was reported in San Diego on Wednesday. President Trump has repeatedly been urged to release ICE detainees during the COVID-19 crisis. Tennessee authorities have now identified a ‘person of interest’ in case of 15-month-old baby Evelyn Boswell, who went missing 3 months ago. On Wednesday, the Navajo Nation announced, “We’re vulnerable”, in regards to COVID-19 and the new rush to curb the virus. The Irish are returning a 173-year-old favor by helping Native Americans battling COVID-19. I feel like I don’t report enough Native American news, so I’m happy to have some news. Two Sioux nations have rejected South Dakota’s governor’s request to close COVID-19 checkpoints. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe established COVID-19 checkpoints on US and state highways within tribal reservations to check people coming in and out of tribal territories, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 to tribal land. The Governor had demanded that the checkpoints be removed. As I’m sure many of you are thinking, this is not an easily solved matter, as jurisdiction of native lands and sovereign nations that happen to have state and federal roads running through, is complicated. And, this is more complicated, because SD is one of the 7 states that didn’t issue a stay-at-home order, but the 2 tribes have. They also require visitors and residents to complete questionnaires when entering and exiting. A new US military recruitment memo suggests that COVID-19 survivors are “Permanently Disqualified” from joining the US military.

 

 

The NY Post is still reporting that there is a bloc of Democratic governors and mayors who are talking about going around Congress to give relief checks to illegal immigrants, after they were excluded from the $1200 COVID-19 relief checks that US citizens received as part of CARES 1 Act. In particular, California Gov. Newsom created a private-public $125 million fund that illegal immigrants would be able to draw from, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot expanded city benefits, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey created a $5 million funding package for all residents including illegal immigrants. New Jersey Gov. Murphy said a fund for illegal immigrants was something that he wants to look at. There are more than 15 million immigrants in the US that did not receive CARES Act checks, nor expanded unemployment benefits, because Congress limited eligibility to workers who have Social Security numbers. San Francisco is giving its many homeless people free drugs (methadone, cannabis), alcohol, and quarantining them in hotels. A father and son have been arrested and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia. Ahmaud was jogging through a neighborhood and unarmed in February in a recently released video, when two men stopped him and shot him dead, for no reason. The two men claimed that he was a burglar and was armed. The father saw Ahmaud running on the street and armed himself with a .357 Magnum and his son grabbed a shotgun, and they jumped into their pickup truck and chased him down the street. A third man jumped into the truck. As Ahmaud tried to run around the truck parked in the middle of the road, both men confronted him, and then shot him.

 

I missed this piece of news from a couple of weeks ago, allegedly Dr. Fauci convinced the Obama Administration to give the Wuhan, China lab a $3.7 million National Institutes of Health grant to study viruses. President Trump said he would end that federal funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology. There certainly has been a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, and Dr. Fauci maintains that the virus was not created in a Chinese lab. The 90-year-old billionaire, Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot plans on donating up to 90% of his $5.9 billion fortune to his foundation to build centers to help veterans with disabilities around the country, fund medical research, and provide care for children with autism. He is also a major political donor of Donald Trump. He and his wife signed The Giving Pledge in 2010. He has already donated $2 billion to more than 300 charities, according to the Washington Post. More edification for me, he and Arthur Blank founded Home Depot in 1978, after they were fired from their jobs at another hardware store. Greg Zanis, the Illinois carpenter who built crosses for mass shooting victims across the country, has died. He built 27,000 handmade white crosses to honor the victims killed in US mass shootings, other acts of terrorism, and natural disasters, “Zanis Crosses for Losses”. He was 69 and had been battling bladder cancer.

 

I saw this blurb and I thought it said something I’ve always felt better than I ever could: “Term limits would increase the likelihood that people who come to Congress would anticipate returning to careers in the private sector and therefore would, as they legislate, think about what it is like to live under the laws they make.”

 

The Federalist is highlighting the wife of NYC Mayor De Blasio for “losing” some $850 million. According to the Daily Mail, Chirline McCray, was given $850 million for a mental health program that she was spearheading, ThriveNYC. Despite that, though, it is reportedly receiving an increase it its budget and is expected to spend $5 billion over the next 5 years.

 

Bankruptcy News:

 

AP reported this morning that the number of US businesses filing for Chapter 11 increased in March, despite the creation of relief programs. Lawyers who work with distressed businesses say there are signs many owners are considering bankruptcy. On 5/7, Souplantation (also Sweet Tomatoes) announced it is closing all 97 of its restaurants permanently in the wake of COVID-19. I mentioned that 24Hour Fitness was contemplating bankruptcy and I discussed it with you here in the Repo Commentary, posing the question of “how can a nationwide gym that is not open, so not paying employees or having overhead, yet still collecting from members (unfairly), not turn a profit?” it turned out that many of the credit card processors chose not to process those credit card monthly payments from the members, worrying that they would have the payments clawed back at some point by regulators or lawsuits from members. I got an email from my health club, LA Fitness, a month ago, which said that the relief they would be giving is either free 3 months membership to someone I introduced new to the gym, or a free month tacked on to the end of my membership. I argued that since they haven’t been open, they should freeze all active memberships, and that tacking on to a membership that I am obviously done with at that time (because I’m moving or some other reason), doesn’t make any sense. They did not respond, so I assumed that I was getting ripped off. But, I just checked my bank statement and realized that the credit card processor, stopped processing my automatic payment after the 3/1 payment. So, even though LA Fitness wouldn’t do the right thing, I wound up being protected by the credit card processor. I know, that whole paragraph sounded like I was feeling badly for the gyms and then I did a 180 and was incensed at the gyms. That’s the nature of this pandemic. This week, Gold’s Gym announced that it was filing for bankruptcy. Retail, especially brick and mortar stores without strong online sales, are taking a beating. NBC News reported on Thursday that Neiman Marcus officially filed for bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor announced that it would be liquidating all assets when it reopens. Saks Fifth Avenue has prepared a bankruptcy filing for its 34 locations. J Crew filed for bankruptcy. J.C. Penney (also owner of Kmart) is considering bankruptcy. I didn’t realize that it still has about 850 stores and has the second-most debt of any distressed retailer at $4.2 billion, according to Moody’s. Since you are asking, I assume, the No.1 is Neiman Marcus. S&P has J.C. Penney as a distressed retailer with a credit rating of CCC and a negative outlook.

 

There has been a trend over the last few years of large retail chains filing bankruptcy in recent years, certainly more recently due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but in the past year, more due to brick and mortar stores losing revenue to online retailers. Just in 2019, Destination Maternity filed in October, Sugarfina filed in September, Forever 21 filed in September, Fred’s filed in September, Barneys New York filed (for the second time) in August, Avenue filed in August, A’Gaci filed (for the second time) in August, Charming Charlie (for the second time) in July, FTD Florists in June, Sonia Rykiel in April, Roberto Cavalli in April, Z Gallerie (for the second time) in March, Diesel in March, Charlotte Russe in February, FullBeauty Brands in February, Payless in February, Gymboree (for the second time) in January, and SHOPKO in January. And, that was just in 2019. In 2018, we saw some major retail bankruptcies in David’s Bridal, Sears, Mattress Firm, Gump’s, Brookstone, National Stores Inc., Rockport, Nine West, Remington Outdoors (a gun manufacturer during the height of that industry because of the lawsuits stemming from 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre), Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, among others.

 

So, I’m watching these sectors that you will see shortly, filing bankruptcy: gyms, restaurants, retail stores, and movie theaters, as all of these groups are going to have a challenge to change their business models to accommodate social distancing and gathering guidelines. I’m not sure how bowling alleys will survive either, since the hygiene looks impossible to me. Brick and mortar retail stores were already getting their revenues hammered by online sales, for the last few years. The scary thing, and I’m hearing this from an inside source, is that you have not seen the small businesses file yet, because many of them can’t afford right now to even FILE bankruptcy. So, there will be another wave coming. Here in South Florida, a beloved chain of deli restaurants, Too Jays, has filed for bankruptcy. There are hopes that they may keep some of the locations open. When the lockdown was announced, a major sports bar chain here in Florida, Duffy’s, with 34 locations and over 1,500 people, completely shut down and furloughed all employees. They were the only restaurant group that chose not to do at least takeout and delivery. Besides now having disgruntled ex-employees and zero revenue for 2 months, Duffy’s faces an enormous challenge, as do all sports bars, to change their business model. Assuming that sports restart, which is critical to their current business model, I don’t know how they will be able to cater to customers with their huge cramped bars and cramped tables, with 70-100 televisions, and yet practice social distancing and maintain proper hygiene. If the sports restart without fans at the stadiums, and expand televised coverage, will that encourage more people to just stay home and watch, or go out to the sports bar and risk getting ill?

 

Here was a surprise to me, Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit area is going out of business. They laid off 2,475 people and eliminated about 450 positions, due to “dire financial effects” of COVID-19. Their Q1 net income was reported as -$278.4 million. While we see all of these healthcare workers and hospitals working hard against the pandemic, it’s sometimes hard to wrap your mind around a hospital during a pandemic going out of business.

 

Here is another sector that I hadn’t considered. With the success of online class-taking and video-conferenced professor lectures and cancelled college sports and college graduation ceremonies, universities and colleges are having to rethink their business plans and sources of revenue. The WSJ reports that MacMurray College, which had survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the Great Recession, is a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The private school in central Illinois announced that it will permanently shut its doors in May, after 174 years. Like other small schools, it had faced declining enrollment and financial shortfalls, then the pandemic brought unexpected costs of shifting classes online. This may not be the only education learned from the pandemic crisis, as the value of formal education itself has been questioned around the world, with the backdrop of homeschooling and online classes. Some institutions are now questioning whether students should be graded, especially since many things about the student, educator, and institution are subjective. Changes are likely coming and the institutions that figure out the right model for the right price will likely be the ones that survive.

 

Hertz is now seeking to avoid filing bankruptcy, after missing a lease payment, a new report says, according to WSJ. This is a ripple effect of the COVID-19 virus on the travel and hospitality industries. Rental car companies have fixed expenses, like vehicle leases for their rental fleets.

 

Of course, if all of these business sectors had a ton of cash saved, they may not have to change their business models, and just wait out the pandemic, until a vaccine or cure is completed. The problem is that most of these sectors are not cash-rich. Ironically, one of the few sectors that is cash-rich, shut down, pays staff mostly in tips, and has really low rent (in bad areas) is gentlemen’s clubs. But, given their business model, they will HAVE to wait for a cure or vaccine.

 

International News:

 

 

I was surprised that this didn’t get more headlines and airtime on the news, but Justin Trudeau said Canada will ban more than 1,500 models of assault-type weapons, shortly after April’s mass shooting of 23 people in Nova Scotia. Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada, which happens to have tighter gun control laws than the United States, but also does not have the Bill of Rights that specifically addresses gun rights of citizens. The PM said, “there will be 2-year amnesty period for current law-abiding gun owners” to protect them from criminal liability until they can take steps to comply with the new law and the country can determine “fair compensation.”

 

 

Human Rights Watch condemned Nigeria’s sentencing to death a driver via Zoom, as “inherently cruel and inhumane.” Venezuela’s president Maduro paraded 2 Americans, he calls “mercenaries”, detained for alleged “daring plot” to overthrow him. MSNBC reports that Russia has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, as stories emerge of doctors being thrown out windows. Two Russian doctors have died and another was seriously injured in falls from hospital windows. Hundreds of Indian police have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, as they are over-stretched enforcing the world’s largest lockdown for the pandemic.

 

 

Despite being criticized by other country’s for keeping the country open and not having a lockdown, Sweden is claiming COVID-19 success and says that herd immunity is imminent, sometime in May. The top health official there has taken credit for the slowing of COVID-19 numbers and pointing to the increase in immune numbers. Sweden has kept open schools, gyms, bars and restaurants.  There have been some doctors questioning Sweden’s claims. Also, the WHO has also insisted that there’s no evidence yet that coronavirus antibodies leave the previously infected immune. In fact, evidence in China and Singapore put that theory in jeopardy. So far, 14,385 people in Sweden, a population of over 10 million, have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 1,540 have died as of 4/20. The NY Post ran a story on 4/28 that “Sweden records the deadliest week of 21stCentury, after resisting lockdowns.” They reported that at least 2,505 Swedes had died between 4/6 and 4/12, averaging 358 fatalities per day. By comparison, Sweden’s neighbors, Denmark, Norway and Finland, respectively have reported just 434, 206, and 199, as of 4/28. I have never seen a time with more conflicting news reports and conflicting actual actions, as on 5/3, the WHO declared that Sweden’s COVID-19 response was a “model for the world” and praised the country.

 

 

This sordid story of politics has come to light recently, in which the WHO is accused of ignoring Taiwan, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taiwan apparently, as reports are now coming out, was more prepared than any other country for the COVID-19 virus, but the WHO put politics first, according to thenation.com. Taiwan reportedly saw the pandemic coming and took action before China did. Taiwan has reported only 348 positive tests of COVID-19 and 5 deaths. It is one of the earliest countries to be hit and has one of the lowest infection rates. However, the WHO refuses to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. Some of that blame though is on China, who has effectively blocked Taiwan from joining the WHO (or the United Nations, for that matter), because it officially considers Taiwan part of its territory. The WHO reportedly refers to the country of nearly 24 million interchangeably as “Taiwan, China”, “Taipei”, and “Taipei and its Environs”. The WHO allowed China to report Taiwan’s numbers as part of China’s numbers. Taiwan confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on 1/21/20 and mobilized its Central Epidemic Command Center (which had been formed during the 2003 SARS outbreak), one day after Wuhan had hosted a 40,000-household dinner to celebrate Lunar New Year.

 

 

China announced that it will bar international investigators from examining the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, until “final victory” over the pandemic is achieved. A leaked intelligence dossier (leaked by “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance) says that China lied to the world about the origin of COVID-19, according to the NY Post. The dossier claims that China also made whistleblowers disappear and refused to hand over virus samples so the West could begin making a vaccine. And, in the 15-page research document, there are indications that some of the five intelligence agencies (the intelligence-sharing alliance of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) believe that the virus may have been leaked accidentally from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been a popular conspiracy theory (I even mentioned it above). Also in the dossier, intelligence showed that China had “evidence of human-human transmission from early December,” but continued to deny it could spread from humans to humans until January 20th.  In unrelated news, the US State Department is concerned that China may be conducting small nuclear tests in secret, possibly violating an international agreement banning such tests, according to Fox News. The Japanese island of Hokkaido, which had been held up as a model of how to control the spread of the virus, but has now become a case study for the impact on what happens if a lockdown is lifted too early, has been suffering a second wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Their state of emergency began on 2/29, right after their Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracted 2 million people to the city, even an ill tourist from Wuhan. But, Hokkaido aggressively sought out every sick person and isolated them and locked down all others. Iraq’s new PM, Mustafa Kadhemi, is a former spy chief, who has ties both to Washington and Tehran, which may prove helpful. The UK is moving towards a gradual easing of the COVID-19 lockdown there, according to WSJ.

 

 

Florida:

 

 

 

Gov. DeSantis and PB County decided on Wednesday 4/29, to open parks, golf courses (yay!), marinas, boat ramps, community pools (yay), and beaches for exercise. However, they did not open beaches for suntanning. And, all activities re-opened have to adhere to no groups of more than 10 and social distancing. I have been hearing that Floridians are flocking to the beaches and not adhering to the rules, which may result in them being closed again. Also, in nearby Martin County, Stuart, FL again made the London newspapers for having packed outdoor restaurants, showing no social distancing and clearly well over 100 people eating. They opened their golf courses and beaches before PB County, but restricted them to only Martin County residents. PB County announced Friday that the beaches would reopen tentatively on 5/18.

 

 

I actually had a tee-time the Thursday morning after golf courses were ordered closed and had a tee time at the same golf course last Thursday, the day it re-opened, and I got rained on by a terrible storm on the 5thhole. PB County requires each golfer to have their own golf cart and continue to use social distancing and to not touch the flags/pins. Pro shops and restaurants are closed, so you have to pay ahead over the phone. You also have to wear a mask throughout the loading area and practice facility. You have to load and unload your own clubs and clean out the carts. I actually like all the new rules. It also makes the round much faster, with each player having their own cart, so everyone drives to their own ball and plays ‘ready golf’. My first two rounds have been about 3 hours instead of 4 ½ hours. Some of you may know that I look out on a beautiful Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course from a 10th-floor balcony, which I am not a member of. So, occasionally I act my age and tell the guys on the driving range to “get off of my lawn!” actually, on Tuesday, I recognized the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, hitting golf balls on the range. No, I kept my mouth shut.

 

 

Florida is still dealing with their woeful DEO unemployment system, which keeps freezing up and all the payments that have not gone out yet. The Governor said they are working on it non-stop and that the system that was purchased for $40 million and recently installed, was never tested properly and can’t handle the extra workload from the lockdown. After 6 weeks of lockdown, Miami-Dade county finally reopened parks and boat marinas.

 

 

One of the concerns here in Florida is whether Florida’s hotel industry, which is critical to much of Florida’s tourism economy, face the same devastation the real estate industry suffered here during the great recession? Certain Florida destination cities are the most vulnerable, like Orlando, Daytona, Tampa, Naples, Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Keys. Miami, in particular could be the double-jeopardy, since so many incomplete condo high-rises stood there in 2010, and now many new expensive hotels have just opened. According to STR, a hospitality data tracking company, the COVID-19 crisis has closed more than 236 of the 473 hotel properties the firm tracks in Miami-Dade county and 24 of the 284 in Broward county. Last week, industry watcher began to worry, when the 1,600-room Miami Beach Fontainebleau Resort said it was working to renegotiate a nearly $1 billion loan through a process called “special servicing”, according to the Miami Herald. Another data tracking group said that 10 other Florida hotels financed through CMBS also entered special servicing in April. This is definitely something to watch, especially since hotels in Florida hire some 150,000 people here. The Breakers, the famous hotel in Palm Beach, announced that it would reopen on 5/22. Now, this seems like a good idea: the city of Tampa will relax zoning rules to allow restaurants extra outdoor seating, so they will be pandemic compliant for re-opening. I ate at a restaurant for the first time since St. Patrick’s Day, in Martin County, just over the line, on Saturday. It was awesome! I had lobster rolls that were as good as my native New England version and the entertainer happened to be a good friend of mine that I used to sing with. There were probably 100-120 people there, all outdoor seating and bar and pool. Felt so good to be outside at a restaurant and being served and not making my own cocktails. PB County is reopening restaurants, but with only 25% indoor capacity and full outdoor capacity on 5/11.

 

 

My 6-part Harmony Group, Generation Gap, and I actually performed a charity concert this Saturday, 4/25, at Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter, FL while practicing social distancing for people from the hospitality and entertainment industries in the parking lot, who received free food from the restaurant’s owner, Vince Flora, in return for donations to help hospitality and entertainment workers in the county. To avoid breaching the county and state pandemic rules, we stayed 6 feet apart and sang on an outdoor stage to the line of about 100 cars in the drive-up. I guess this is what it would be like to sing for a McDonald’s Drive-Thru. “Would you like a song or fries with that hamburger?” We did have about 20 cars wind up parking in the lot for the last hour with their windows open to enjoy the concert.

 

 

Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses 8 weeks ago, urging people to stay at home. It probably would have been easier and shorter to just list the “non-essential” (also known as ‘fun’) businesses that they were closing (realtors, bars, churches, retail stores, clothing stores, golf courses, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, beaches, parks, amusement parks, and strip clubs.) They specifically designated “essential” businesses (allowed to be Open) as the following (by the way, the Governor oddly made WWE wrestling an ‘essential’ business:

 

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Dentists’ offices
  • Urgent care centers
  • Clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Physical therapists
  • Mental health professionals
  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Research and laboratory services
  • Blood banks
  • Medical cannabis facilities
  • Medical equipment facilities
  • Healthcare manufacturers and suppliers
  • Reproductive healthcare service providers
  • Substance abuse providers
  • Medical transport services
  • Pharmacies
  • Grocery stores
  • Farmers markets
  • Farm and produce stands
  • Supermarkets
  • Food banks
  • Convenience stores
  • Liquor stores*
  • Businesses engaged in food cultivation (farming, livestock, fishing, etc.)
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and necessities of life for needy individuals
  • Newspapers
  • Television stations
  • Radio stations
  • Media services
  • Gas stations
  • Automobile dealerships
  • Auto-supply stores
  • Auto-repair facilities
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Insurance firms
  • Pawn shops
  • Hardware stores
  • Gardening stores
  • Building material stores
  • Contractors and other trades
  • Building management
  • Maintenance
  • Home Security Firms
  • Fire and Water Damage Restoration
  • Public adjusters
  • Appliance repair personnel
  • Exterminators
  • Mailing businesses
  • Shipping services
  • Private colleges to provide distance learning
  • Trade schools to provide distance learning
  • Technical colleges to provide distance learning
  • University, College or Technical College residence halls for students who cannot return to their homes
  • Laundromats
  • Dry cleaners
  • Laundry service providers
  • Restaurants for take-out only*
  • Schools and other entities to provide free food pickup
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Adult day care centers
  • Businesses providing professional legal or accounting services
  • Landscape companies
  • Pool care businesses
  • Childcare facilities
  • Airports
  • Seaports
  • Logistics providers
  • Warehouses
  • Trucking consolidators
  • Fumigators
  • Handlers
  • Telecommunication providers
  • Propane and natural gas services
  • Open construction sites
  • Architectural firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Land surveying firms
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Bottling plants
  • Industrial distribution
  • Supply chain facilities
  • Waste management services
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Commercial lodging establishments
  • Temporary vacation rentals
  • Veterinarians
  • Pet boarding facilities
  • Mortuaries
  • Funeral homes
  • Crematories
  • Cemeteries
  • Funeral product suppliers
  • Firearm and ammunition supply stores
  • Any businesses providing services to government
  • Electrical production and distribution services
  • Moving, storage, and relocation services
  • Personal grooming services: hair salons and nail salons?
  • Religious services
  • Natural gas, water, electric utilities and cable service providers

 

 

 

I am usually singing a National Anthem, singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, and/or doing an Elvis Presley gig, each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. I had many gigs in November and December, quieted down in January, but had picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games.  However, that all came to a halt when MLB CANCELLED Spring Training and Florida authorities limited gatherings to less than 50, particularly for events and restaurants, then closed the restaurants, except for Delivery and Takeout. We are actually in constant touch with party planners, hotels, and restaurant owners, who are planning to hire us as soon as they reopen, some guessing that that will be in June or July.  If you were inclined to see much more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there were many acts which came to Florida in 2019, and these were scheduled for for 2020 (below), although that all changed with COVID-19.  A public service announcement about the outdoor amphitheater in West Palm Beach (currently adjacent to the South Florida Fair), it has been very confusing with all the name changes, and it has happened again.  It was originally called the Coral Sky Amphitheater, then was changed to the Cruzan Rum Amphitheater, then to Perfekt Vodka Amphitheater, then back to Coral Sky Amphitheater, and was changed again to iThink Financial Services Amphitheater. None of the names have been particularly catchy and all those changes occurred only in the last 11 years! Because of the pandemic, some events, such as fairs and boat shows in Florida have been cancelled or postponed.  So, please check ahead of time to see if the concert you are going to is still being held.

 

SOUTH FLORIDA 2020 SCHEDULE (next 2 months):

 

Celine Dion-Miami, January 17

Queensryche-Fort Lauderdale, January 17

Brian Wilson-Miami, January 17

Mary Wilson-Bonita Springs, January 19

Starship-West Palm Beach, January 22

Steve Martin & Martin Short-Hollywood, January 25

Guns N Roses-Miami, January 31

Jason Aldean,Riley Green,Morgan Wallen-Orlando, January 31

Maroon 5-Miami, February 1

Zac Brown Band-Sunrise, February 1

Styx-Port St. Lucie, February 1

Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 11

Kool and the Gang & Village People-Key West, February 21

John Fogarty-Fort Lauderdale, February 22

Paul Anka-West Palm Beach, March 13

Harry Connick Jr.-Fort Lauderdale, March 18

Cher-Miami, March 24

America-Fort Lauderdale, March 24

YES and Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, March 25

Little River Band-Fort Lauderdale, March 26

The Who-Fort Lauderdale, April 21

Elton John-Miami, May 30

Def Leppard and Motley Crue, Miami Gardens, July 7

Nickelback-West Palm Beach, August 15

Foreigner, Kansas, and Europe-West Palm Beach, September 6

 

Jokes and Such:

 

Repo Commentary-04/28/20

IMG_6562IMG_6563IMG_6564IMG_6686IMG_6687IMG_6690IMG_6692IMG_6693IMG_6694IMG_6695IMG_6697IMG_6698IMG_6699IMG_6703IMG_6704IMG_6705IMG_6706IMG_6715IMG_6726IMG_6708IMG_6711IMG_6716IMG_6573IMG_6561IMG_6559IMG_6558IMG_6557IMG_6723IMG_6709

It is Day 49 (on 4/28) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, as some states start opening up, they are going to mess up my brand-new day counter.

 

 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

 

 

I mentioned that the book I ghostwrote last year, was finally published last week. I have just been commissioned to write some chapters for a second book, as a ghostwriter.

 

 

I am still not retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am working with an electronic trading platform, to provide a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available for hire as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. 

 

 

My Repo Commentary, however, is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week on Monday or Tuesday.

 

 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (04/27):

 

 

  • Babe Ruth Day
  • Marine Mammal Rescue Day
  • Matanzas Mule Day
  • Morse Code Day
  • National Tell a Story Day
  • National Prime Rib Day
  • World Design Day
  • National Devil Dog Day
  • World Tapir Day
  • Lawyers’ Day (Odisha, India)
  • National Heroes Day in Barbados
  • Restoration of Sovereignty Day in Japan
  • Sardinia Day in Sardinia
  • Workers’ Memorial Day for Safety and Health at Work (International)
  • National Day of Mourning in Canada

 

Some Famous People Born on 04/27 in History:

 

 

  • AD 32-Otho, Roman emperor
  • 1442-Edward IV-King of England
  • 1758-James Monroe, American soldier, lawyer, politician and 5thPresident of the United States
  • 1878-Lionel Barrymore, American actor and director
  • 1908-Oskar Schindler, Czech-German businessman
  • 1916-Ferruccio Lamborghini, Italian businessman, created Lamborghini
  • 1924-Kenneth Kaunda, Zambian educator and politician, 1stPresident of Zambia
  • 1926-Harper Lee, American novelist
  • 1937-Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and 5thPresident of Iraq
  • 1941-Ann-Margret, Swedish-American actress, singer and dancer
  • 1950-Jay Leno, American comedian, talk show host, and producer
  • 1952-Mary McDonnell, American actress
  • 1958-Hal Sutton, American golfer
  • 1964-Barry Larkin, American baseball player, manager and sportscaster
  • 1966-John Daly, American golfer
  • 1970-Nicklas Lidstrom, Swedish ice hockey player and scout
  • 1974-Penelope Cruz, Spanish actress and producer
  • 1981-Jessica Alba, American model and actress

 

 Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

Since 2006, US pennies and nickels have had a production cost greater than their face value, which has resulted in a net loss to taxpayers of $436 million.

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

If poison is past its expiry date, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?” –anonymous

 

 

 

 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

 

Oil prices closed at:

 

$74.34/barrel on 10/5

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

 

 

 

 

Oil prices are a mess.  Short-sellers last week drove US oil prices (Light Crude May 2020 futures contract on the NYMEX) through the floor, to trade at -$16.18/barrel. Isn’t there and Uptick Rule in Oil markets, like there used to be in the US stock market? Heating Oil was trading this morning nearly at zero, $0.90. Unleaded Gas (Futures) were trading at $0.73/gallon. This is crushing the economies based on Oil exports and hurting our fairly young shale and new exploration domestically. OPEC and Russia had just agreed to a 10 million barrel per day production cut, according to the FT.  It used to be that when oil prices rose, that was bad for the US. Now, that we are less dependent on foreigners and had a nascent shale and fracking exploration going of our own, oil prices needed to stay at a certain level to make it affordable for us to continue exploration. Now, prices aren’t even high enough to pay the trucks to haul away the oil. That has a ripple effect on American jobs (maybe 3 million), other markets, commodity markets, shipping companies, airlines, commuters, truckers, and some taxpayers’ 401-Ks. It also increases the US deficit when we backstop the disruption and balloons the Fed’s balance sheet.  Needless to say, there goes our recently highly-touted “independence” in terms of oil (that even President Trump lauded a couple of months ago).  Worse, it helps our competition in fracking overseas, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who can let prices fall until the US is out of their market, and then manipulate prices higher again, when the US is once again dependent. And here is yet another ripple effect from the plummet in oil prices. All eyes are on Cushing, Oklahoma, where America’s largest oil storage facility is quickly filling up amid a massive glut. FT reports that experts say Cushing and other key oil tank farms could reach their maximum capacity within a month.  The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has stopped falling, at $1.71/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

 

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

 

 

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. Today (4/27), it traded at $1,724.20/ounce.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It has now given up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

As you recall, SFTR was supposed to come online on 4/11/20.  However, ESMA requested and convinced market regulators to turn a blind-eye until 7/13/20. The EU markets watchdog was forced to act to calm the concerns of participants who have had major disruptions from COVID-19 pandemic. You may also recall that at the time, DTCC began pre-production testing of code, testing of production connectivity, and submission of messages, in March. That continues today with users submitting real live data, so they can start their daily operations routines for when it goes live. The public statement of SEC Chairman Jay Clayton at the FSOC Open Meeting mentioned that the SEC is focused on 2 overriding issues: (1) the national challenge of an unprecedented health and safety crisis that requires all Americans to significantly change our daily behavior, including the behavior of our banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, and other market participants; and (2) the reality that the continuing orderly operation of our credit and other capital markets is an essential factor in driving an effective health and safety response to COVID-19, since our healthcare, manufacturing, food services, and many other industries all depend upon the continuing provision and receipt of capital and credit and the flow of capital more generally. Central Banks are under increasing pressure to find further ways to relieve the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with key meeting this week for the ECB, Federal Reserve, and BOJ. BOJ, in particular, has preceded its meeting by suspending government bond buying limits and by raising corporate debt purchases. JPMorgan Chase and working capital platform Taulia have partnered to deliver liquidity to small suppliers of corporations. This will boost supply chain finance and could free up as much as $20 trillion in capital currently tied up in the supply chain waiting to be paid. The use of digital banking apps has surged in the US, amid widespread stay-at-home requirements and fear.  App downloads and installations increased by 60% since March, resulting in a 17% revenue increase, according to analytics firm AppsFlyer. Reuters reports that the leading US investment banks are reducing their corporate lending in Europe, to focus more on the unprecedented domestic demand. However, Refinitiv suggests that local lenders, including BNP Paribas and Santander are moving promptly to fill the gap. Europe’s regulators are set to lighten the load on EU bank balance sheets with proposals to ease requirements on accounting for bonds, derivatives, and other instruments. Deutsche Bank beat analysts’ expectations with Q1 earnings, but is braced for Q2 defaults. Success in banks’ work-from-home arrangements has reduced pressure for workers to return to the office and be at risk of COVID-19 infection or infecting, but firms are now planning for a phased reopening. That reopening will still prioritize health and safety. Executives at banks and exchanges are reportedly gathering further data before finalizing decisions and timelines. The former head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, outlined a plan to end the global pandemic, that focused on a massive contact-tracing system, rather than putting trillions of dollars into economic stimulus packages. He had also championed World Bank catastrophe (pandemic) bonds that critics say have been too slow in delivering relief funds to countries in need. Lloyd’s of London CEO John Neal says the COVID-19 pandemic could be the most costly blow to the insurance industry in history, dwarfing previous crises such as Hurricane Katrina or the 9/11 terror attacks. The pandemic is leading some lenders to reduce credit card limits and reduce the number of new applicants, to offset potential losses. Reuters is reporting that investors are calling for a review of executives’ pay at Goldman Sachs.

 

US Market News:

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets. A forecast just published by the Congressional Budget Office shows the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for months, the US unemployment rate will hit 16%, and the budget deficit will climb to $3.7 trillion. The sharp economic contraction is expected to continue through June, but a recovery will begin in Q3. The CBO expects, “state and local governments (at that time) will ease stay-at-home orders, bans on public gatherings, and other measures restraining economic activity.” Reuters reports that markets are increasingly hinging on COVID-19 vaccine expectations. Investors say that there is little chance of sustained economic progress without it. The markets are bobbing up and down with the daily headlines concerning vaccine tests.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, as regulators continue to resist reinstating the Uptick Rule, which disappeared after the Great Recession. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):

 

 

 

4/27/20      24,133.78

4/24/20      23,775.27

4/23/20      23,515.26

4/22/20      23,475.82

4/21/20      23,018.88

4/20/20      23,650.44

4/17/20      24,242.49

4/16/20      23,537.68

4/15/20      23,504.35

4/14/20      23,949.76

4/13/20      23,390.77

4/10/20      market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20      23,433.57

4/07/20      22,653.86

4/06/20      22,679.99

4/03/20      21,052.53

4/02/20      21,413.44

4/01/20      20,943.51

3/31/20      21,917.16

3/30/20      22,327.48

3/27/20      21,636.78

3/26/20      22,552.17

3/25/20      21,200.55
3/24/20      20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20      19,898.92

3/17/20      21,237.38

3/16/20      20,188.52

3/13/20      23,185.62

3/12/20      21,200.62

3/11/20      23,553.22

3/10/20      25,018.16

3/09/20      23,851.02

3/06/20      25,864.78

3/05/20      26,121.28

3/04/20      27,090.86

3/03/20      25,917.41

3/02/20      26,703.32

2/28/20      25,409.36

2/27/20      25,766.64

2/26/20      26,957.59

2/25/20      27,081.36

2/24/20      27,960.80

2/21/20      28,992.41

2/20/20      29,219.98

2/19/20      29,348.03

2/12/20      29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42  on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

24,242.49 on 04/17/20

24,133.78 on 04/27/20

 

 

 

 

A 27% rebound on the S&P 500 since 3/23/20 has underscored the ways in which different markets appraise the outlook for the economy, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The S&P 500’s forward price-to-earnings ratio has reached 21, the highest point since 2001 (during the Dot.com bubble), despite disappointing corporate earnings.

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

 

 

I mentioned in the last Repo Commentary, something J.P. Morgan said in 1912, “Gold is money. Everything else is credit.” It’s interesting that this has come up again. It isn’t unusual in a world-catastrophic event that everyone buys gold and US Treasuries. Ironically, up until the mid-20thCentury change (1931 for Great Britain and 1933 for the US, and finally 1973), the US Dollar was backed by Gold, which was physically held at Fort Knox.  It was considered the Gold Standard. We moved to “fiat money”. Gold is still being mined in various countries, even pan-handled in creeks in the US. There are now Gold ETFs, Gold futures, and rarely movement of physical Gold. It has been an interesting debate for more than 50 years, whether the US should go back to the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard was a monetary system where a country’s (once the US) currency or paper money has a value directly linked to Gold that is held as collateral to back it. So, back then, if the US set the price of Gold at $500, then the value of one US dollar would be 1/500thof an ounce of Gold. Theoretically, it would allow anyone who has paper currency from any country, using the Gold Standard, to turn in the currency for actual Gold. There are arguments for both sides. Obviously, the physical quantity of Gold available would act as a limit to currency issuance and inflation. But, strict adherence to such a policy could be a hindrance to economic growth, leverage, and political unrest. The Gold Standard, or obsession with Gold, has been going on for at least 5,000 years. Did you know that Gold is so dense that one ton of it can be packed into a cubic foot? It’s interesting that since I wrote about it, President Trump even mentioned it, sounding like he may be in favor of reinstating the Gold Standard.  I’m not an expert (on this) but with dilution of the US dollar in the last few decades, do we still have Gold to ‘back’ it?  The short answer is “no”, according to the smarter people than me I checked with. If the people who are long Gold futures decided to take physical delivery, instead of have their contract expire and be paid for it, there would not be enough physical Gold to cover the expiration of the contracts. I assume that would lead to a very serious problem. Apparently, the same holds true for the metals ETFs. Given that, how would we have enough physical Gold to back all those US Dollars out there? Unfortunately, that leads to the awful question of what is that US Dollar piece of paper worth, besides the ‘backing’ of the US Government? Remember, the credit rating agencies, who were probably already on a tightrope with the public, chose to downgrade the credit rating of the US Government? As President Hoover famously said in 1933, in his argument to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have gold because we cannot trust governments.” Wow, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, Gold has recently risen in price.

 

 

The mega-purchasing of US Treasuries, Agency MBS, municipalities, corporate bonds, and ETFs (up to $2.2 trillion) by the Fed has shouldered out the buyers for the OTHER flight-to-safe haven/flight-to-quality, US Treasuries, as a favored investment, so investors have turned to Gold. Obviously, it was huge when the Federal Reserve announced on 4/13 that they would lend as much as $500 billion to state and local governments, which led to an increase is state and local debt issues.  That was after a 56% year/year decrease since early March. The key to supporting the municipal market, however, was the follow-on huge secondary-market purchases by the Fed.

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. The FHA and VA have joined Fannie and Freddie in relaxing some loan standards. Banks have been deluged by applications for refinancings, as MBA survey of mortgage rates hit an all-time survey low of 3.45% (since 1990). Mortgage applications were up 7.3% from one week ago. 76.2% of total applications were for refinancings. However, home purchases were down in the first week of March over the first week of last March by 35%. According to the most recent monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index, availability standards tightened in March. Lenders have become more conservative and less willing to take on more risks. GNMA announced that it plans disaster aid for virus-hit mortgage servicers, utilizing its contingency funds for natural disasters, but that only covers federally-regulated mortgage servicers, mostly banks.

 

 

My friends, Susan Estes and James George, separately (which is ironic since they actually worked twice for the same firms), brought to my attention on Friday the WSJ article “The Bonds the Fed Left Behind in Coronavirus Bailout Are Struggling”.  This actually is about the topic I have been harping about in this segment of the Repo Commentary for the past few issues: commercial bonds, CMBS, and commercial loans. As the article says, more eloquently than I could probably say or paraphrase, while the Fed has swiftly mobilized most its emergency lending powers, “by law it must also protect taxpayers against losses.” As I detail below in the Federal Reserve News section, the Fed has deployed many of its tools, to almost unlimited extent, to shore up various parts of the markets. Yet, even so, the Fed is reticent to touch some formerly hot areas of the markets that really need help, despite having helped them during the Great Recession. The Fed has specifically excluded some securities tied to corporate loans and commercial mortgages that were the newest and fastest growing segments of the Fixed Income markets. And, this reticence is in the face of the recent big credit unwind in mortgages, as banks have marked the assets down, particularly private label MBS, CMBS, and commercial and residential mortgage loans. They have subsequently issued margin calls on asset managers and securitization conduits, many of whom are using leverage to purchase the securities. This has forced some to sell the securities at distressed prices. It’s unclear how many billions of dollars of these non-QM commercial loans are out there. Forbesreported on Friday that credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, said that commercial mortgage delinquencies may reach the Great Recession level. It predicted that CMBS loan delinquencies could spike between 8.25% and 8.75% by the end of Q3, coming close to the peak of 9.01% in July 2011. Just as a reality check, that delinquency rate stood at 1.31% in March 2020.  The most vulnerable businesses are hospitality, retail and student housing. Another area that could suffer is shopping malls. Much needed liquidity would be for the Federal Reserve to include these as eligible collateral in their new resuscitated TALF program from 2008-2010.  TALF was a useful program to keep the plumbing functioning in vital markets during the Great Recession and the US government ultimately made money on it.  The Hill reports that the $2.3 trillion stimulus package just signed will let homeowners with federally-backed mortgages seek forbearance on payments, a provision that could cause enough losses to bankrupt mortgage servicers. Industry advocates say Federal intervention is essential to ward off a chain of crises. I apologize to those that think I am beating this subject like a dead horse, but you don’t know who all the people are that actually read this Repo Commentary.  It’s hard to see all of these liquidity facilities and the resurrected alphabet programs of the Financial Crisis, without noticing the glaring absence of support for the mortgage originators and servicers. Some 40% of GSE and 70% of GNMA loans, for example, are being serviced by non-banks, who are already beginning to deal with forbearances, which all told could total as much as $80 billion over the next 6 months, per JPMorgan. 15 different associations have come together to call for additional liquidity to mortgage originators and servicers, with a letter to the Federal Reserve about a much needed advancing facility, similar to what liquidity is now being provided to regulated depository institutions. This is already being manifested in the loan market, as concerned lenders of existing loans are now starting to reduce the amount of Jumbo lending they are doing.

 

 

Here is a different perspective on the same issue (again, sorry if it seems like I am beating a dead horse), Bloomberg reports that the nascent market for US private mortgages is teetering on the brink of collapse, due to the pandemic, basically undoing the government’s hard work to remove its role in home lending. Several firms that issue mortgage bonds without Federal guarantees have now laid off most of their workers and stopped doing business, as the economy has cratered. And, the once hopeful market for securities that shifted the credit risk from government-backed agencies (FNMA, FHLMC, GNMA) to private investors, has now stalled. Some traders are having trouble even finding prices for the securities. What is interesting to me, in contrast to mortgages being main cause of the 2008 Housing Crisis/Great Recession, now mortgages are kind of a collateral damage from the pandemic. And, the concern is that that collateral damage could cause a major downturn in taxpayers housing, just as their 401-K portfolios have taken a major hit due to the equity market freefall. So, just as the Government was pulling out of this market, is when they are now needed most to support it. In 2019, private-label securities only represented $46 billion of the $2.38 trillion in mortgages issued, according to the Urban Institute. Portfolio loans that aren’t securitized and also don’t have government-backing, however, represented $853 billion. FNMA and FHLMC issued securities represented about 40% of the MBS market in 2006, but have been slowly removed over the following years. They both even issued credit-risk transfer securities, which were sold to private investors. That shifted housing market risk from taxpayers to investors. But, now that there are less lenders of private mortgages, less servicers, and less investors, the private label market needs Federal help.

 

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

To make this more legible and easier to follow, I will provide the newest headlines in the Repo & Securities Lending market at the top in RED. The subsequent paragraphs of this section will include other issues and my thoughts on the market, for those who haven’t read them before. They will be updated, but won’t change as much as the first paragraph.  At some point, I will assume people have read parts of those further paragraphs and will trim them from the Repo Commentary.

 

 

 

Securities Lending Times reported that FIS appointed a new senior sales executive, Alexandra Bocking, who will focus on post-trade solutions to the DACH region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

 

GC repo rates continue to confound, trading with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range. Some of that is due to the massive RP operations and the massive QE buying. Right now, broker-dealers are giving $156.5 billion of their collateral to the Fed at the stop-out rate of 0.10%. The repo market is awash with cash. GC repo rates should move higher, maybe to the middle of the Fed Funds range, as the impact of this month’s issuance of $647 billion in cash management bills should sop up some of that extra cash. That’s only part of the $1 trillion that US Treasury is going to issue.

 

Scott Skyrm reports that after a tumultuous (my word, not his) March, the Agency MBS Repo market is almost back to normal, at least part of it. In March, repo rate spreads moved much wider between Agency MBS and US Treasuries, as did prices on the securities, generating margin calls for leveraged participants (asset managers, hedge funds, mREITs, etc.) Some of those leveraged participants were unable to meet their margin calls and their securities were liquidated, prompting some of the broker-dealers to reduce their Agency MBS repo books (balance sheets). Recently, those Agency MBS repo and US Treasury repo rates spreads have returned to near-normal 2-5bp. However, that is only dealer-to-dealer. Broker-dealers are still maintaining a wider collateral spread to customers and a wider bid-offer spread to cash providers versus collateral providers. Coupled with some of those still lowered Agency MBS repo balance sheets at some broker-dealers, leveraged collateral providers are actively looking for additional agency MBS funding counterparties. It seems like a really good opportunity for a consultant like me, with many contacts, who is an expert in peer-to-peer financing counterparties. Ironically, I have seen a lot more interest today for my proposed electronic solution or such!

 

 

The Federal Reserve has activated a temporary repurchase agreement facility that lets foreign central banks exchange US Treasuries for US dollars. This was an activity that many central banks and sovereign wealth funds were doing in the Repo market with broker/dealers, repoing their US Treasuries for term 1-3 months for US dollars, then taking those US dollars and buying their own currencies, propping those currencies up, until their own economies improved (or oil prices rose in some cases). But, with oil prices at historic lows, their economies struggling with the pandemic, and the apparent lack of liquidity in the term repo markets, the Fed felt it needed to step in with this Facility. Both the Facility and the term repos to broker/dealers are designed to be alternatives to them selling the US Treasuries outright in the market, something the Treasury Department and the Fed absolutely don’t want them to do.

 

 

The Fed Funds target of 0%-0.25% means that we are likely to see some negative repo rates for Treasuries that go Special. That also means we will have to watch those TPMG fails rates. On Monday, Overnight GC traded at 0.04%, at the low end of the Fed Funds target range, but that was with an injection of $449 billion from the Fed. That injection, so far, has only helped the Overnight market, and the yield curve rises dramatically for term repo, as does the bid/offer spread, similar to post 2008. Of course, this is a different market than 2008, as we only have 24 Primary Dealers, and, as Skyrm points out, $23.5 trillion in US Treasury issuance, compared to $10 trillion in 2008.

 

 

Bill Foley has begun a new Securities Finance TV, SecFinHub, featuring interviews and discussions with experts. I am looking forward to participating remotely.

 

I am hearing that the Federal Reserve may be working on resurrecting the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF), which was a subset of the successful TARP program, both from the 2008 Financial Crisis response in 2009/2010. I don’t have a list yet of the securities that the Fed will take in the proposed program, and am curious to see if they will take real estate loans.

 

 

In the Securities Financing industry, we are again facing a tsunami of acronyms in regulations and events, much like during the Financial Crisis. ESMA is delaying rules on failed trades by 2 more months. LEI rules are being postponed for emerging market securities, as nearly 50% of them still don’t have LEIs.  Even 10% of European securities don’t have LEIs.

 

ESMA’s SFTR Level 3

Brexit

EU Crypto Regs

FCA Crypto Regs

EC Cyber-attack Guidelines

FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II

CSDR

LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)

EISF

ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling

MUR

 

 

Well, “repo” is the lubricant of the money market system, particularly the issuance of US Treasuries and other bonds, and it only comes up in conversation among non-participants when the gears start squeaking or fail to function.  And, the last time the general public heard about “repo” it was during the Financial Crisis.

 

 

This is broadly what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms.
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in the last two FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008.

 

Having just moderated a panel at the IMN Securities Financing Conference 2/12-2/13/20, my panel and I were able to share with the audience the current state of ETPs, CCPs, and P2P securities financing, and painted, in no particular order, a current map below (this is based on what we have been able to ascertain, but may not be accurate or complete):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 billion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

CCPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

One of many developments that I thought was really cool to hear about at the IMN conference (among other things I will share with you over time in the Repo Commentary or in consultation), was the newly formed Global Peer Financing Association created by 4 of my larger pension fund clients (CALPERS, HOOPP, OHPERS, SWIB) to promote peer-to-peer financing, not only among pension funds, but potentially with other sectors too (such as SWFs, Central Banks, Insurance Companies). It is of course near-and-dear to my heart, as I had many discussions with all 4 about peer-to-peer securities financing, over the past decade. I am very happy to see this development, which includes rate negotiation, standardization of legal documents, a credit vendor’s service, and some indemnification for certain clients from a securities lending agent. I am very supportive of this effort and hope to be involved in its evolution.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN.I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

 

Similar to what I am doing for the Repo News section of the Repo Commentary, I will report news headlines in RED in the last paragraph of this Federal Reserve section. That paragraph will be preceded with other issues, timelines, and general information that will be updated, but will remain pretty constant, until I decide to trim them from the Repo Commentary. 

 

 

I’m always looking back to make sure I didn’t miss any major news. I noticed that in March, Pierpont Financial Consulting expanded its learning and development capabilities for the securities finance sector by hiring Zafirah Jeeto to lead that training arm. Northern Trust had a Q1 revenue boost from securities lending.  Canadian pension funds had record returns in 2019.

 

 

The Fed announced on 3/23 that the amount of liquidity available for it to buy US Treasuries and Agency MBS in the outright markets is now UNLIMITED.

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).

 

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral.

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. This facility, dormant by the middle of 2019, has seen a lot of action in the last few weeks, as cash providers have trouble finding enough repo collateral among their broker/dealer sources.

 

On 3/4/20, the FRB approved a rule to simplify its capital rules for large banks, still preserving the strong capital requirements already in place.  On 3/5/20, the FRB announced the termination of enforcement actions. It also postponed its 2020 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference because of COVID-19. On 3/6/20, the FRB published the Community Reinvestment Act. On 3/9/20, the Fed and other Governmental agencies encouraged financial institutions to meet financial needs of customers and members affected by COVID-19.  The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the COVID-19 crisis. The FOMC set the Interest on Excess Reserves Rate (IOER) target to 1.10%, effective on 3/4/20.  They also voted to authorize and direct the Open Market Desk at the FRB NY, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) as necessary to maintain the Fed Funds rate in a target of 1.00%-1.25%, down 50bp.  The FOMC also instructed the Fed to continue purchasing Treasury bills at least into Q2 of 2020, to maintain over time ample reserve balances at or above the level that prevailed in early September 2019 (before the liquidity problems of year-end). The FOMC also directed the FRB to continue conducting term and O/N repo operations at least through April 2020 to ensure ample supply of reserves. The FOMC also directed the desk to conduct overnight Reverse Repo operations at an offering rate of 1.00% in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities in its SOMA account that are available for such operations and up to a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day.  If that wasn’t enough, the FOMC also directed the desk to continue to reinvest P&I from MBS securities it owns in Treasury securities, up to $20 billion per month, and to engage in Dollar Rolls and Coupon Swap transactions as necessary to facilitate the market.

 

The US Treasury Department is making $10 billion available to support businesses’ liquidity through outright purchases of CP issued by highly rated companies. The CP Funding Facility will be managed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY.

The Fed is encouraging banks to use capital buffers imposed by regulations to loan to borrowers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. Even I am losing count of how many trillions of dollars the Fed has hosed this economic fire with. However, the Fed wants the market to know, according to Bloomberg, that it still has plenty of ammunition available beyond the latest $2.3 trillion effort. For instance, the Fed has so far only used about 40% of the $454 billion in seed capital allocated by Congress for such efforts, which leaves it at least $250 billion, which used through the Repo market could be levered as much as 10-times that, to provide up to another $2.5 trillion of further relief. Now here’s a topic that I have harped on a few times before. A big difference from 2008 to 2020 in resurrecting the bailout programs and implementing the Fed tools from 2008, is that there are only 24 Primary Dealers now, down from 48 Primary Dealers. The pipeline has been constricted for all of those Fed programs to go through, particularly the liquidity programs of adding cash through monetary policy. Apparently, the WSJ this morning brought this up too, in one of their articles. They said that while hundreds of regulatory changes made after the 2008 Financial Crisis have made banks safer, it also constrained  (those that did not go out of business or consolidate) their ability to serve as a “conduit” for the Fed’s rescue programs.  “It seeps through the system more slowly.” As I have mentioned, it’s a combination of the reduction in number and size of those banks and their balance sheets, and their behavior and response. The Federal Reserve is eliminating a requirement that banks limit customers with savings accounts and money market accounts to 6 withdrawals a month without a fee. So, we have the FOMC 2-day meeting this week and I’m sure they will take the temperature on all of their emergency programs to stem the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, take inventory of their toolbox to see what tools they have left, and probably look at the IOER rate and Fed Funds target rate. They may decide to increase IOER from .10% to .15%, as Fed Funds have been trading on the low end of the 0.00%-0.25% target range.

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

Did you know that the earthquakes that hit Idaho on 3/31/20 have left its iconic Sawtooth Mountain Range forever altered?

 

Earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:

 

04/28 5.2 Hihifo, Tonga

04/27 4.5 Sinabang, Indonesia

04/27 4.6 Khorugh, Tajikistan

04/27 5.4 Namatanai, Papua New Guinea

04/27 4.8 Adak, Alaska

04/27 4.7 Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

 

The Northeast and Midwest continue to deal with unseasonably cold temperatures and very late snowfalls. Florida is experiencing extremely warm temperatures and humidity, breaking records with heat indices of 105 degrees. We finally had our first complete day of rain, the first in 40 days. California has been in a remarkable heat wave, which is not making the forced stay-at-home order any better, as the locals want to go to the beaches.

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1stand ends November 30th.  I want you to know that I am constantly searching for good or uplifting news, but at the moment, the majority of news items are on the negative side and almost all dealing with COVID-19.  Here is something different, but once again, while informational, kind of to the negative. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more -active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons.  We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. Did you know that commercial airplanes equipped with special air-sampling equipment provide an estimated 250 million observations annually, and now that many are grounded (some 64%), the National Centers for Environmental Protection and NOAA are not getting enough data, during one of the most active times of the year? And, despite plenty of bad news about COVID-19, on Friday, the official hurricane forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season came from CSU, giving us Floridians something else to worry about:  CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Also, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. Cyclone Harold, not following the calendar, struck the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga (while the are was also struck by earthquakes over the last 2 days), killing at least 29 people.

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

Given that many sports have suspended or cancelled their events and seasons, this section of the Repo Commentary will still have less, changes.  There are some things happening in ownership support of arena workers out of work, free agent market trades, Drafts, and rescheduled events.  I will update any changes in bold RED, so you can find them quickly.  For those not seeing different colors, they will appear at the end of each sub-section. CDC’s latest recommendations could mean no professional sports until June or July now.

 

 

On 4/16, the major professional sports in the US began conversations with the White House about when and how they might open. Each has different timelines and different agendas, mostly to protect fans and protect players. I will highlight the latest news on each in the sub-sections below, as I hear them.

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The World Series went 7 games, and the Washington Nationals, who were in the Postseason for the first time, beat the Houston Astros, who had won the World Series in 2017.  The cool thing, from my perspective, is that they share the same brand new Spring Training facility right here in West Palm Beach, FL, and I sing the National Anthem for both teams several times during Spring Training, and I auditioned for both 2020 Spring Training for the Cardinals, Marlins, Astros, and Nationals. So, I’ve already had the honor to sing 3 National Anthems and “God Bless America’s this year, and I had at least 3 more to sing at. That would have broght my total of MLB games that I sang at, since 2003, to 156.  We were about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams were to be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. But, the COVID-19 put an end to Spring Training and delayed the start of the 2020 MLB regular season. It has also suspended all levels of MLB Minor League games. The 3 remaining Spring Training games that I was to sing the National Anthem at were also cancelled. All 30 MLB teams, today, each pledged $1 million to pay ballpark employees who aren’t able to work, until the season can open.

 

 

Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner has died at age 63. In other Yankees news, well NYC news, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have taken the first step to buying the NY Mets. MLB is still in discussions among team management, players, and the White House about how they will re-open and when they will re-open. President Trump even commented that he wants sports to return, because he is tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old. There are a few proposals out there:

 

  • Scott Boras has proposed a 162-game season beginning in July, with the World Series played on Christmas Day.
  • Playing baseball in the usual MLB stadiums, but without fans, adjusting for weather, and hold playoffs in neutral warmer sites.
  • The Palm Beach Post reported two Fridays ago, that another proposal calls for baseball to be divided into two 15-team Leagues, the Grapefruit and the Cactus, with each consisting of three 5-team divisions, aligned based on the geography of their Spring Training sites. For example, the East Coast of Florida has the Mets, Nationals, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals, etc., and the West Coast of Florida has the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Orioles. So, those teams that are near each other, would play some 19-20 games against each other, as they do now. Basically, the West Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the AL East and AL Central (the I-75 route), and the East Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the NL East, and NL Central. Arizona has many teams from the NL West, AL West, and NL Central. Of course, not only because I had already been discussing this proposal with Mark, but also because I have 2 awesome stadiums with 4 MLB teams right in my backyard. And, there is a chance, if they have fans in the stadiums, they will need a National Anthem singer!
  • MLBPA is pushing for playing ALL MLB games in Arizona, utilizing all types of stadiums there, without fans, and housing each team in their own hotels. As of 4/16, this plan apparently is leading the pack of proposals. The Palm Beach Post reported on Friday that a plan calls for baseball to be divided into two 15-team Leagues, the Grapefruit and the Cactus, with each consisting of three 5-team divisions, aligned based on the geography of their Spring Training sites. For example, the East Coast of Florida has the Mets, Nationals, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals, etc., and the West Coast of Florida has the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Orioles. So, those teams that are near each other, would play some 19-20 games against each other, as they do now. Basically, the West Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the AL East and AL Central (the I-75 route), and the East Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the NL East, and NL Central. Arizona has many teams from the NL West, AL West, and NL Central. Of course, not only because I had already been discussing this proposal with Mark, but also because I have 2 awesome stadiums with 4 MLB teams right in my backyard. And, there is a chance, if they have fans in the stadiums, they will need a National Anthem singer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf:

 

 

Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.  The PGA Tour started the Players Championship is went forward with the “fifth Major’s” first round, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and cancelled 5 other tournaments to come.  It also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.  The European Tour schedule for 2020 season was:

 

  • 11/28-12/1/19 Hong Kong Open
  • 11/28-12/1/19 Alfred Dunhill Championship
  • 12/5-12/8/19 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open
  • 12/19-12/22/19 Australian PGA Championship
  • 1/9-1/12/20 South African Open
  • 1/16-1/19 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
  • 1/23-1/26 Omega Dubai Desert Classic
  • 1/30-2/2 Saudi International
  • 2/6-2/9 ISPS Handa Vic Open
  • 2/20-2/23 WGC-Mexico Championship
  • 2/27-3/1 Oman Open
  • 3/5-3/8 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
  • 3/12-3/15 Magical Kenya
  • 3/19-3/22 Hero Indian Open
  • 3/25-3/29 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
  • 4/9-4/12 The Masters
  • 4/16-4/19 Maybank Championship
  • 4/23-4/26 Volvo China Open
  • 4/30-5/3 Estrella D. Andalucia Masters
  • 5/9-5/10 GolfSixes Cascals
  • 5/14-5/17 US PGA Championship
  • 5/21-5/24 Made in Denmark
  • 5/28-5/31 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
  • 6/4-6/7 Trophee Hassan II
  • 6/11-6/14Scandinavian Invitation
  • 6/18-6/21 US Open
  • 6/25-6/28 BMW International Open
  • you have to believe that I had no idea this would be so long and that I just wanted to be helpful/informational…
  • 7/2-7/5 Open de France
  • 7/2-7/5 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
  • 7/9-7/12 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
  • 7/16-7/19 The 149thOpen (British Open)
  • 7/30-8/2 Betfred British Masters
  • 7/30-8/2 Olympic Men’s Golf Competition
  • 8/6-8/9 UK event
  • 8/20-8/23 D+D Real Czech Masters
  • 8/27-8/30 Omega European Masters
  • 9/3-9/6 Porsche European Open
  • at least I can keep this in the Commentary and just update it for the next year…
  • 9/10-9/13 BMW PGA Championship
  • 9/17-9/20 KLM Open
  • 9/25-9/27 The 2020 Ryder Cup
  • 10/1-10/4 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
  • 10/8-10/11 Italian Open
  • 10/15-10/18Mutuactivos Open de Espana
  • 10/22-10/25 Portugal Masters
  • 10/29-11/1 WGC-HSC Champions
  • 11/5-11/8 Turkish Airlines Open
  • 11/12-11/15 Nedbank Golf Challenge
  • 11/19-11/22 DP World Tour Championship

 

Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, made a statement on Monday 4/6 that the Club has identified, with leading organizations in golf, November 9-15 as the intended dates to host the postponed 2020 Masters Tournament. I’m glad to see that. The PGA announced last week that it will begin playing tournaments again in June.  The PGA Championship is still on for August, with or without fans. Ironically, this was the first year that this major was moved from August to May, and now they had to move it back to August. They also just announced their future sites through 2031.

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs had not won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, 52 years ago, snapping the longest drought of any NFL team. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft, unless they trade it away. The Patriots currently have 12 picks in the Draft and only a backup as a QB.

 

 

FINALLY! Live Action Sports! Well, the NFL Draft anyways. It began Thursday night, with the first round, and should finish by Monday or Tuesday. The second and third rounds were Friday and Saturday. Patriots fans, like me, are groaning even more now, as TE Rob Gronkowski, who would not come out of retirement last year, despite rumors, and save the Patriots’ season, has decided to come out of retirement to play with QB Tom Brady and his new team, the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Patriots still had rights to Gronk, so they had to trade him to the Bucs for a 4thround pick in the Draft. That actually gives the Patriots 13 picks in this Draft, which is very unusual (only the Dolphins, with 14 picks, had more).  They were still expected to Draft the Utah QB or Georgia QB in the first round to replace Tom Brady. But, the Patriots didn’t. In fact, they traded away their first round pick to get a 2ndand 3rdround pick, increasing their number of picks to 14. They then drafted a kicker (which they needed, since they booted Gostkowski), 2 guards, 2 tight-ends, and 3 linebackers, but no QB. The Dolphins, on the other hand, drafted Heisman Trophy winner QB Tua out of Alabama and some WR help for him. Speaking of Tom Brady, he got cited for throwing around the football in a Tampa park by his new hometown police. Then, he walks into the wrong house with his gym bags and surprised the owner sitting at the kitchen table. Apparently, his new offensive coordinator lives in the house next door. Brady also joined the Seminole CC in Juno Beach, FL, right up the road from me, where Ben Hogan hailed from. It is ranked No.12 on Golf Magazine’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 2019-2020. The development was started by investment banker, Edward Francis Hutton (EF Hutton) back in 1929. I actually got a job offer there in 1981. The Packers surprisingly picked a QB in the first round, who likely won’t play soon, since Aaron Rodgers is only 36.

 

 

 

Tennis

 

 

In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24thto late September 24-October 4, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The controversial change may cause the French Open’s biggest winner, with 12 French Open titles, Rafael Nadal, to boycott the tournament. Apparently, the decision from leftfield by the Federation Francaise de Tennis was made without consultation with other stakeholders. There may be a schedule ripple effect on the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish just a week before, so the French Open may lose players, and the Laver Cup, which was supposed to be played in the same week that the French Open is moving to. The potential boycott from Nadal comes, not only because he may also choose to play in the US Open instead, but also because he and Roger Federer are the ones who champion the Laver Cup exhibition team competition, with the leading players of the world, a fan favorite. Federer is actually more likely now to skip the French Open, as he is returning from knee surgery at Wimbledon, and has been leaning away from clay tournaments. If enough top-ranked players skip the French Open, can it still be considered a ‘Major’? The WTA suspended its tour until 5/2, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.

 

 

Speaking of Wimbledon, the 134th June 29-July 12 tournament was cancelled. It was the first time that this Major was cancelled since WWII. It will instead be played next year at its normal time, 6/28/21-7/11/21. Following the Wimbledon announcement, the WTA, ATP, and ITF postponed its matches another 5 weeks until 7/13. The US Open is still planning to play at its normal time in September, a week before the now rescheduled French Open.

 

 

Olympics

 

 

The head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics insisted that the Games are on track, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. With the mounting pressure, the IOC finally announced that the Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until 2021. A virus has done what even a war couldn’t do; postpone an Olympics. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. On Wednesday, President Trump congratulated Japanese PM Abe and the IOC. Some sports reporters are pointing out that the Olympics will likely overlap with the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, and perhaps the MLB season, in 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will begin in July 2021.

 

 

 

Soccer

 

 

Soccer’s 2020 European Championship, scheduled for Russia, has been postponed for a year because of the outbreak of the virus among the Norwegian and Swedish football associations, on Tuesday. The Premier League suspended their season, as did most of the top European leagues.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

After about 100 bowl games (it seems) over many weeks, the College Football Playoffs came down to 4 teams:  No.1 and unbeaten LSU made easy work of No.4 Oklahoma 63-28 on 12/28, and No.3 Clemson won a close battle over No.2 Ohio State 29-23, on the same day. That left LSU to play Clemson for College Football National Championship, which they did this week on Monday.  Despite LSU playing in the New Orleans Superdome (so, a home field/crowd advantage), and having the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow, they were down in the 2ndquarter 17-7 to Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence, but came roaring back by halftime, and won 42-25, winning their first National Title since 2007.

 

 

COVID-19 has caused the NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s sports. The NCAA then announced that seniors would have another year of eligibility to play in their sports. However, they then changed that to include ALL players, not just seniors, would have an extra year of eligibility. I’m not sure how that works…if the player was good enough to make it to the Pros, then they’re probably going to go to the Pros and forego their 5thyear, or they are already foregoing their senior or junior year to go to the Pros. If they weren’t good enough for the Pros, a 5thyear of eligibility isn’t going to make a difference and just cost them or their family another year of college tuition and room and board. I guess it really helps the athletes who were borderline good enough for the Pros or were coming off of injuries. They might need the 5thyear to prove to Pro scouts that they are worthy.

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this season on 10/2/19.

 

We were approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should have ended again in June, and here were the current standings. In the Eastern Conference: in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are in first with a smoking 44-14-12 record (best in NHL with 100 points) after breaking the Flyers win streak of 9 games Tuesday night on Tuuka Rask’s birthday, with the Lightning in second (tied for 2ndbest record); in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are in first with a 41-20-8 record ( tied for 3rd best in the NHL), followed by the Flyers in second. In the Western Conference: in the Central Division, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are in first place at 41-19-10 (tied for 2ndbest in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rdbest in NHL) and the surprising Stars in third; in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights lead with a 39-24-8 record, and the Golden Knights are just ahead of the Oilers in second place. The Canucks, who had been leading the Division through most of the season, have dropped to 4thplace. The worst team in the NHL continues to be the Red Wings, boasting a dreadful 17-49-5 record. This too, all came to an end, with the season at least being suspended, with no games to be played for a while.

 

 

After requesting arena availability from each team last Tuesday, the NHL general managers said they intend to resume their regular season in July. This lines up well with a popular plan among players, who wanted to compete in the postseason in August and September, take October off as the new “off-season” and then return to the next regular season in November. There will be some obstacles to this plan though, the most important one being ice conditions in the heat of the summer months. Another interesting obstacle is that a number of players’ contracts expire on June 30. The NHL itself has not decided what to do. The NHL also said that if it plays the games without fans in the ice rinks, they will have to pump in artificial fan noise, because this sport, according to them, is impossible to play without crowd noise. I don’t know, the Florida Panthers have been doing that for years.

 

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. COVID-19 is having an impact on the NBA now, as the League suspended the NBA regular season indefinitely.

 

 

There was only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams were still jockeying for a playoff position. The current standings are: Eastern Conference had No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest were well behind; Western Conference has No.1 Lakers, No.2 Clippers, No.3 Nuggets, No.4 Jazz, No.5 Thunder, No.6 Rockets, and No.7 Mavs, and the rest were well behind.

 

 

 

ESPN’s documentary series on Michael Jordan, called The Last Dance,is getting high praise for its first two episodes. The NBA says it may resume its regular season without fans in the stadiums.

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed.It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARfinally chose not to do ‘fan-less’ races and, instead, chose to postpone its race events through May 3, in accordance with safety protocols recommended by the CDC in response to COVID-19. Of the 3 major racing circuits, the NASCAR one has the potential to lose the most races in the 2020 schedule, perhaps as many as 10. The Governor of Florida wants NASCAR to open up racing as soon as possible.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results:

 

2/16 Daytona 500

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400

3/1 Auto Club 400

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400

playoffs:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That will be followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule.  Three F1 team members have been placed in isolation over COVID-19 fears.  The opening of the season has been delayed at least until 5/3, although they refuse to confirm date change for that race to later, despite the likelihood that the Dutch Grand Prix probably can’t be staged on 5/3.  F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Then, COVID-19, upset the race schedule and also took down F1’s (FWONK) share price, initially down 25%, and now down 40% from it January 2020 high of over $48.00/share. I will be posting the 2020 Formula One calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

 

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas

3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000thGrand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas

5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton

5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen

7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton

7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim-won by Max Verstappen

8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest-Lewis Hamilton

9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Charles Leclerc

9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza-Charles Leclerc

9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore-Sebastian Vettel

9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi-Lewis Hamilton

10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka-V. Bottas

10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City-Lewis Hamilton

11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX-V. Bottas

11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo-M. Verstappen

12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit and its 2019 calendar and results (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  The season just ended, with Josef Newgarden coming in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. I will be posting the 2020 calendar when they post the updated one:

 

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-Josef Newgarden

3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta

4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato

4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi

5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud

5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon

6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden

6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi

7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud

7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden

7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-Scott Dixon

8/18 Pocono Grand Prix-Will Power (I love that name!)

8/24 Gateway Grand Prix-Takuma Sato

9/1 Grand Prix of Portland-Will Power (that’s all it takes)

9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca-Colton Herta

 

IndyCar Racing also hit the brakes on the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19. So, instead of the first race running in mid-March, the first race is now scheduled for 5/9, basically losing 4 races from the 2019 schedule.  Here is the updated 2020 schedule (unless it gets changed again because of the pandemic):

 

5/09 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis, IN

5/24 104thIndy 500, Indianapolis, IN

5/31 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, MI

6/06 Genesys 600 in Texas

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America

6/27 Indy Richmond 300

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto

7/18 Iowa 300

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500

9/06 Grand Prix of Portland

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

Due to the pandemic, Germany has cancelled OktoberFest. Macy’s 4thof July fireworks are still on, but they will be without fans. I’m not sure how that is going to work, are they preventing us from looking up? Struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, Datz restaurant owners, Suzanne and Roger Perry, in Tampa, FL decided they needed to do something before they ran out of money to pay their skeleton staff of 27 (from 400). So, they decided to auction off a 25-year-old bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon, which was valued between $17,000-$26,000 online. So, they listed it at $20,000 with a 15% discount from that. One of the many bidders, a veteran, who wanted to add it to his collection and to help out one of his favorite restaurants, called to say he would buy it for the full price, but insisted to buy it in-person with a cashier’s check. So, the bottle would have been $17,000 with the discount. The veteran showed up and happily handed them a check for $40,000! With the $20,000, the Perry’s were able to keep their remaining employees paid for another few weeks an even bring some employees back. They decided to use the other $20,000 to provide hundreds of meals for healthcare workers and first responders who are on our front-lines. According to industry analysts, Disney’s theme parks are unlikely to re-open until 2021. Social distancing, travel restrictions, and Global recession, make theme parks “less profitable.” Disney announced in April that it had ceased paying over 100,000 staff to save $500 million per month. That was more than 50% of its workforce. To make guests feel safer in the future, Disney is considering the use of temperature checks. On 4/23, President Trump confirmed and announced that the US Air Force acrobatic group Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels acrobatic group would be performing joint flyovers and maneuvers across the country to about 30 locations to honor medical workers, in Operation America Strong. This is a very rare treat, as the two famous acrobatic military squadrons have never performed together and have been practicing together in secret. The military came up with the idea, as they wanted to salute our nation’s healthcare heroes, and the tributes will be conducted soon after the Pentagon receives official approval from the White House. Flyovers are planned, according to the Washington Post, for NYC, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Dallas, and others. Although reports by the media say that each squadron would cost at least $60,000 per hour to fly, a Department of Defense official told CBS News that there would be NO additional cost to taxpayers since flyovers are already included in the teams’ annual operational budgets.  The Thunderbirds did a flyover last weekend, following the Air Force Academy’s graduation, over parts of Colorado as a sign of gratitude to healthcare workers. President Trump also announced that he is moving forward with plans for the annual July 4thcelebration on the National Mall in Washington, but with a smaller crowd to protect spectators. MOMA is offering free online classes. Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, and GM have agreed with their unions to reopen for some vehicle production assembly on 5/18/20.

 

 

Health News:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED. I am continuing to reduce the old news in this section, now mostly to just the Public Service Announcement, because I assume you have already read that news and I would like to reduce the overall size of the Repo Commentary (making it easier to read for you and easier to type for me).

 

 

More than 1.5 billion people around the world are still ordered to stay-at-home because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As of this morning (4/28), globally, more than 211,894 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 3.057 million people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 902,129 people have totally recovered.  The reason that is important is for “herd immunity”. The WHO says the virus has spread to at least 175 out of 190 countries. Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, US, and France). Spain’s COVID-19 confirmed cases total of 229,422 as of 4/28, makes it 2ndonly to the US. Spain has had at least 23,822 deaths from COVID-19. Italy, suffered very early in Europe, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 199,414 as of 4/28, leaving it behind US and Spain, but ahead of France, Germany, UK, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and China (83,938), in that order of Confirmed Cases. Italy has had 26,977 deaths as of 4/28 from COVID-19, the second most behind the US.

 

 

 

The US is the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, at 988,469 (as of 4/28), almost one-third of the world’s total. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 4/28, is now 56,253, and highest in the world. One of the reasons that the number of confirmed cases keep rising is because the US has now tested nearly 5.6 million people. The United States has about 4.3% of the world’s population at about 380,000,000 and more than 32% of the world’s COVID-19 cases.

 

 

New York is the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 4/28, there have been more confirmed cases (291,996) in the state than in any other country, let alone state. Of those cases, NYC has seen 17,515 deaths. On 4/16, while discussing the effects of COVID-19 on NY state, including a plateauing of total hospital admissions and a decline in ICU admissions, Gov. Cuomo said “the number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that, fate did not do that, destiny did not do that, a lot of pain and suffering did that.” The 500-bed USNS Comfort hospital ship is leaving NYC, after 3 weeks, as it only treated 179 patients and wasn’t needed as much as expected.

 

 

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have certainly heard a lot about ‘social distancing’, as it is the top guideline. However, we haven’t heard much about ‘mental distancing’. There have been articles in the news (and I’ve written here) about the mental toll on all of us that is akin to PTSD for soldiers and for healthcare workers. There is also something similar to the worry we felt after 9/11 that it could happen again without warning. The virus can attack without warning and many people who have it are contagious for weeks and may not even develop any symptoms. Plus, it stays alive on different surfaces for different lengths of time. At you may be immune to it for a year after recovering from it, or you may just get it again, which has been happening in Singapore and China. So, that stress is brutal. It makes us edgy, moody, sometimes forgetful, sometimes in a fog or a haze, and with no sense of time or the days of the week. Forbes ran an article in which several mental health doctors said that ‘mental distancing’ from the onslaught of media attention to the virus, is just as important as ‘social distancing’. Otherwise, the constant hammering can lead to depression or despair. They suggest going outdoors for a walk, getting sunshine, reading a book, playing board games, working on a puzzle, getting some exercise, or “writing a newsletter.” Seriously, that’s in there. So, who knew that this was actually therapeutic for me? The Association For Entrepreneurship USA made 10 suggestions for remaining sane and productive during the Quarantine:

  1. Establish and maintain a regular sleep schedule, including have breakfast, shower, shave and get dressed in daytime clothes (don’t stay in pajamas.)
  2. Set time aside each day or certain days for regular exercise. With public gyms closed, you will need to utilize bikes, rowers, hiking, resistance bands, dumbbells, chairs, and online exercise programs.
  3. Prepare healthy meals and avoid between-meal snacks.
  4. Identify time with family, spouse (or equivalent), friends, and for self.
  5. Avoid watching non-educational TV during the day.
  6. Limit time watching news on TV.
  7. Avoid impulse purchases.
  8. Use time to rearrange your closet, garage, or workplace.
  9. Consider learning a hobby or expand on a lost interest.
  10. Communicate with others via phone, text, Facetime, or even from a short distance, to get rid of the feeling of being ISOLATED.

 

 

In a rare but growing number of cases in Massachusetts, children are becoming increasingly hospitalized due to COVID-19, even requiring ventilators in some cases. This is counter to the general global numbers, which show the pandemic as largely sparing the very young from serious complications. The Boston Globe set one of those records we don’t want to set, running 16 pages of death notices, the most in the history of the newspaper. France is reporting having 82 heart incidents linked to using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

 

I just had my first FaceTime virtual checkup with my GP doctor. Well, at least, I didn’t have to do the “okay, cough” thing! Last week’s news was consumed by President Trump’s 4/23 suggestion during his daily COVID-19 update that doctors should look into the value of disinfectants or sunlight taken internally to kill the COVID-19 virus. He has been under attack from both medical professionals and social media. Even the makers of Lysol felt they needed to release as statement, warning people that “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”  The CDC felt it had to put out a warning as well. NYC poison hotline had thousands more calls, asking whether it would work. Since the comment, the President has said that he was asking a question sarcastically to reporters.  

 

Public Service Announcement:

 

 

How do you know if you have COVID-19? The CDC says the following are symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

 

  • Severe sore throat that moves to the lungs.
  • Severe headaches (although not everyone is presenting with headaches)
  • Fever (although not everyone is presenting with a fever)
  • Oz, and celebrities confirmed, that if you don’t present a fever, you will lose the sense of smell and taste for the duration of the virus. This is a new symptom or tell-tale sign. After you have rid the virus, your senses of smell and taste return within weeks. This ‘anosmia’ is occurring in about 30% of the cases, those that are mild or moderate.
  • Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to). This dry cough is affecting at least 1/3 of all patients and feels like it is coming from the breastbone or sternum and feels like the bronchial tubes are inflamed, and may include coughing up sputum from the lungs.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive or stomach issues, which have been in about half of the patients.
  • Chills and body aches
  • Pink eye, about 3% of patients are experiencing conjunctivitis
  • Major fatigue

 

The CDC says the following are symptoms which are EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (this list is not all inclusive):

 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Sudden confusion or inability to wake up
  • Bluish lips or face

 

With the WHO globally and the CDC domestically urging “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they recommend the following steps (obviously certain states, cities, and countries have adopted even more severe measures):

 

  • I actually wrote about this in the Repo Commentary on 3/18, but now have heard a lot more information about it. The French government (another French study) on 3/16 and later the UK NHS, announced that people infected with COVID-19 should avoid using ibuprofen (like Advil) and instead use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) during the duration to treat the fever and aches. The reason, according to both of these groups, and several doctors from Cornell, Harvard, and the virologist I mentioned on 3/18) is because ibuprofen tends to suppress the immune system somewhat, which could be disastrous during COVID-19, and they felt it could expedite the virus to move into the lungs. There has been mixed reactions from the medical community, as there has not been enough research on whether the virus thrives more on ibuprofen or not. However, some doctors believe that it can make the results 10 times worse than using Acetaminophin. So, it is your choice. Snopes.com said it has not been proven False or True yet. The British Ministry of Health has previously issued guidelines on the use of ibuprofen with infections or viruses. I am hearing from my friends in the homeopathic community that you shouldn’t take NSAIDs generally because of their tendency to suppress the immune system. Frankly, I think if it doesn’t hurt me, I’ll switch to acetaminophen, at least until this is over, just in case it is true. I would like you all to be around too and safe. I’m sure you have all heard anecdotally through the years that more doctors recommend Tylenol than Advil in hospital stays, partly because of the immune system response and partly because of the alleged impact to the kidneys of constant use of ibuprofen. However, what is not spoken about much is that constant use of Tylenol can also lead to bad results for the Liver. In fact, the study that the French Government relied on for its guidelines was based on their own previous study about a woman who had died allegedly taking ibuprofen and how ibuprofen compares to acetaminophen. But, the study was flawed, since the original woman was actually on acetaminophen, not ibuprofen, according to the latest reports. So, I really don’t know.All I know is, after someone mentions it in the media or in a press conference, Tylenol is suddenly gone from all the shelves at the pharmacies, grocery stores, and Target.  But, there is plenty of Advil!  So, another one to add to the Endangered Species of rarely spotted home goods, along with Emergen-C, Vitamin C, Zinc, paper towels, pasta sauce, pasta, latex or nitrile gloves, n95 masks (or any face masks of any kind), Handiwipes/Wet Ones or any type of antibiotic soap, spray, or towel, Purell, and the odd one, toilet paper.
  • Stay home if you are mildly ill with COVID-19, except to get medical care. Do not visit public places.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care, so that the office can protect themselves and other patients.  Be sure to get emergency care if you worsen or have any of those symptoms.
  • Oz says that there are signs that taking Vitamin C and Zinc at the first signs or even as preventive medicine, could be effective against COVID-19 infection and recovery. Of course, some other doctors have come out and said that there was never verifiable proof that Vitamin C or Zinc helped with other viruses or the common cold. And, I still don’t know if eggs are good for you or bad for you, but I still eat them.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay away from others, as much as possible, including people in your home. Try to do as much ‘home isolation’ as possible, staying in a designated “sick room” with a separate bathroom, if available, and away from other people in your home.
  • Limit contact with your pets and animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19 from humans, it is still recommended for those with the virus to limit contact with animals, until more information is known.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you have COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
  • If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • If you are caring for others who are sick, you should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. On average, we touch our nose and mouth about 90 times per day, without realizing it.
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean in a dishwasher.
  • Daily clean disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your home, but only you in your “sick room” and bathroom. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
  • The CDC says that people with the following underlying health conditions BEFORE contracting COVID-19 are at higher risk (this is not a complete list):
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic lung disease or asthma
    • COPD
    • Heart failure or heart disease
    • Sickle cell anemia
    • Cancer or undergoing chemotherapy
    • Kidney disease and dialysis
    • Body Mass Index over 40
    • Autoimmune disorder
    • Recent transplant patients
  • Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
    • You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
      • You no longer have a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • AND other symptoms have improved.
      • AND you received 2 negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
    • Or, if you will not have a test to determineif you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
      • AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

 

Animal News:

 

The first dog has tested positive for COVID-19. For the first time ever, Florida shelters are empty of animals to adopt, as people in stay-at-home orders want a pet to keep them company. You need to be careful about transferring the virus to your pets. Many stories continue popping up about the silver lining of COVID-19, with Mother Nature reclaiming the Earth and the Earth healing from pollution, smog, noise, traffic, ozone layer, etc. Flowers are blooming, rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is claiming back the jungles, and humans are committing less crime (theft and murder). Scientists confirmed that the 1-million-square kilometer wide hole in the Ozone layer over the Arctic has now closed. It had been discovered earlier this month by scientists. I didn’t know where exactly to put this news, but maybe since the practice is pretty barbaric, this is the best place: for the first time ever, the Pamplona, Spain’s Running of the Bulls has been cancelled.

 

Back to Mother Nature:

  • Traffic is gone
  • Gas is affordable
  • Bill paying has been extended
  • Kids are at home with their families
  • Parents are home taking care of their children
  • Fast food has been replaced by home-cooked meals
  • Hectic schedules have been replaced by naps, rest, and relaxation
  • Air is cleaner
  • The World is quieter
  • People are conscious about hygience and health
  • Money doesn’t seem to make the world go around anymore
  • Doctors and nurses are being praised instead of athletes and celebrities
  • And, we have time to finally stop and smell the roses!

 

 

 

Entertainment News:

 

 

Before the COVID-19 crisis, all of my social media friends seemed to be political analysts.  Then, they suddenly became epidemiologists. Now, apparently, they are all singers and have their own shows on Facebook and Instagram.  It only took me about 6 weeks to finally figure out that I had Netflix and how to sign on and, of course, the first movie I watched was the 1995 hit CONTAGION with Renee Russou, Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Patrick Dempsey.  Wow, what a great movie! Even though this was my 3rdtime, it really hit home with what we are going through with the pandemic. I also figured out that my YouTube Premium account for my tracks for singing also gave me access to the YouTube channel, so now I HAVE watched Tiger King (below). I also watched the entire series of WACO, and several movies. Sofia Vergara is the new face of Dolce & Gabbana. Netflix’s Tiger King ranks as TV’s top show currently, according Rotten Tomatoes. The true-crime docu-series explores the world of big cat (tigers and lions) owners, like Joe Exotic, owner of an Oklahoma roadside zoo. The show features several dark twists and turns, leading to Exotic’s arrest in connection with a murder-for-hire plot involving and rival big-cat enthusiast. Joe Exotic remains in prison, serving a 22-year sentence. He has filed a lawsuit against two Federal agencies, seeking $94 million in damages. Carol Baskin remains the head of Tampa, FL Big Cat Rescue, refuting the allegations of the disappearance of her first husband. Baskin-Robbins even changed one of their franchise signs to say, “no, not that Baskins”. Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle’s exotic zoo in South Carolina remains open. Jeff Lowe continues to run the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma.  Rick Kirkham, a former primetime journalist, has now cut ties with Joe Exotic and moved to Norway. I have not seen a single episode, although I happen to be a big-cat enthusiast myself. Rita Wilson is discussing her and husband, Tom Hanks’, COVID-19 symptoms in detail, saying, “I was very tired, I felt extremely achy. Uncomfortable, didn’t want to be touched. And then the fever started. Chills like I’ve never had before.” Her fever kept climbing and the doctors in Australia chose to give her the malaria medicine, hydroxychloroquine. Stanley Tucci made himself an Internet sensation when he calmly taught people how to make a Negroni cocktail, which will now forever be known as the QuaranTucci. Blue Ivy Carter (Beyonce and Jay-Z’s 8-year-old daughter) is showing the public how to fight COVID-19 in a hand-washing PSA. Larry David told “Idiots” still going out to stay at home. His Twitter post, which was directed at fellow Californians, was added to the Twitter account of the state’s governor’s office. I understand that 79-year-old tenor Placido Domingo is still recovering from COVID-19 in Mexico. Am I the only one who is surprised by this news, that Kanye West has become officially a ‘billionaire’? I thought he filed for bankruptcy just a couple of years ago? I spoke about that one Drive-In movie theater in Ocala that is the only one in the US that is showing first-run movies (currently showing TROLLS: WORLD TOUR), and that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are interested in Drive-Ins. The total US box office for 4/15 (not including movies being streamed on TV) was a whopping $1,710 from this one theater. Now restaurants across the US are turning their parking lots into impromptu Drive-In movie theaters, and having great success.  On 4/18, Peoples Restaurant and Lounge in Corpus Christi, TX had its first screening in the parking lot of TOY STORY 4, and it was sold out. They sold out again the following week for all movies. In Mingus, TX, BJ’s Restaurant and Bar did the same in its parking lot, starting with the classic THE SANDLOT. In Arizona, Food & Wine reports that the Ajo Al’s group of Mexican restaurants set up inflatable screens in the parking lots to show Pixar film’s COCO to guests while they park their cars six feet apart and enjoy takeout food. In Omaha, NE, Tex-Mex cantina The Corner Kick brought about 35 vehicles to their parking lot when they screened THE THREE AMIGOS (this movie actually streams in the Men’s Rooms at the Rocco’s Tacos restaurants here in Florida. It has not worked everywhere, as some jurisdictions have been stricter on their guidelines, like for V Pizza in North Carolina, who were shut down for violating stay-at-home orders, while others have faced legal problems from movie studios due to licensing rights. I’m sure there should be a solution to these issues and production companies would want to work out contracts to get their films distributed.

 

Technology & Space News:

 

 

Here is an odd news item that I missed, that came out on 3/14, 3 days after the quarantine order. Right before the COVID-19 arrival:

  • CEO of Disney stepped down
  • CEO of Tinder stepped down
  • CEO of Hinge stepped down
  • CEO of OKcupid stepped down
  • CEO of Match stepped down
  • CEO of Hulu stepped down
  • CEO of MedMen stepped down
  • CEO of L Brands (like Victoria Secret, Bath & Body Works) stepped down
  • CEO of Salesforce.com stepped down
  • CEO of Harley Davidson stepped down
  • CEO of IBM stepped down
  • CEO of T-Mobile stepped down
  • CEO of LinkedIn stepped down
  • CEO of MasterCard stepped down

I know that I need to take this seriously, as this is the 6thbranch of our military, but every time I hear “Space Force”, I think of Mel Brooks. Anyway, on a serious note, the US Space Force has unveiled its first weapon, a major satellite jammer, or Counter Communication System. This would render orbiting satellites temporarily useless. Russia’s military has had similar weapons in place since 2019. In fact, there have been at least 13 similar systems up and running around the Earth since 2017. Although language sometimes takes a long time to adapt to technology and changes in culture, emojis have been adapting much quicker. Sure enough, design agency &Walsh has come out with a host of new emojis to help you capture the 2020 events. One of them is a pajama-wearing, couch-sitting superhero. Online payments leader, Stripe, is taking advantage of a reported surge in the use of its services by announcing 3 new facilities. The company will offer card-issuing services directly to businesses so they can create bespoke versions, increase its accepted large card networks, and introduce new algorithms that will reassess and potentially approve more flagged transactions.

 

 

US News:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED. I am phasing out the old news, now down to just one paragraph at the end.

 

 

Despite President Trump’s softer approach with the Governors and saying they are “going to call their own shots,” many of the states are rejecting his suggestions about The Plan reopen, and going with their own plans to either reopen their states earlier or reopen their states later.  The willingness for each Governor to follow the President’s Plan’s suggestions has fallen on political party lines and internal pressure from that state’s industries.

 

 

The Plan outlines “Proposed State or Regional Gating Criteria” that includes 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-like and COVID-19 Symptoms, 14-day downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 Casesor downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests, and Hospitalstreating all patients without crisis care and robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers (including emerging antibody testing) thresholds that have to be met, prior to proceeding to Phased Opening. The plan also has ‘recommendations’ for state preparedness and Federal help on sourcing testing and medical supplies for States. In the Phased Opening, where general terms will be interpreted specifically for each State or Region, PHASE 1, with continued sanitation protocols and strict physical distancing, would allow elective surgeries to begin, gyms to open, restaurants to open (but not bars), movie theaters to open, sporting venues to open, and places of worship to open. It would still encourage telework and return to work in phases and minimize non-essential travel. PHASE 2, with continued sanitation and distancing protocols, would still have all vulnerable individuals sheltering-in-place, but would allow non-essential travel, still encourage telework, reopen schools, still prohibit visits to senior care facilities and hospitals, and allow bars to open. PHASE 3, would lift all restrictions, as long as sanitation protocols and certain limits are followed.

 

 

Several states, on Friday (4/24), made moves, not complying with Federal guidelines, and began reopening sectors or completely. About a dozen other states, made moves the other way, extending their stay-at-home orders. With the disparity between state Governors and party affiliations, this section may prove to be valuable as a roadmap for the near future. There have been “protests” in several states of those governors’ stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closings to try to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Protests began last week in Lansing, MI on 4/15, then continued in Minnesota, Virginia, all states with Democratic governors. President Trump probably didn’t help by tweeting that people needed to “LIBERATE” those states. This was followed by more protests in Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington. Here are the latest updates on how each state is handling re-opening (or not):

 

 

ALABAMA-Gov. Ivey issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. They have announced a task force to reopen the state’s economy, with a plan by 4/17 for the Governor. That plan is being reviewed by the Governor now.

 

ALASKA-Gov. Dunleavy issued a stay-at-home (unless absolutely necessary) order until it is rescinded. The Governor planned on reopening the state early. On Friday, he did just that, allowing the re-opening of restaurants and retail stores.

 

ARIZONA-Gov. Ducey issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30.

 

*ARKANSAS-Gov. Hutchinson has yet to issue a stay-at-home order, but schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic term. Fitness centers, bars, restaurants and other public places are closed until further notice. One of only 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

CALIFORNIA-Gov. Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that has no end date. He just extended social distancing into June. He also made a pact with Oregon Gov. Brown and Washington Gov. Inslee on 4/13. Gov. Newsom issued on Tuesday, HIS guidelines on reopening the economy in the 3 states based on six criteria, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves and dream of regretting.” The State is now being sued by pastors for not allowing services to continue in-person. The State also reportedly is now giving aid to non-US citizens harmed by COVID-19.

 

COLORADO-Gov. Polis extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/26. He said that he hoped the state would be able to open up on 4/26, but that does not mean “things are going to go back to how they were in terms of 60,000 people at a stadium (or) a busy nightclub.”

 

CONNECTICUT-Gov. Lamont extended the mandatory shutdown in the state until 5/20. CT has joined a coalition with the Northeast states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to coordinate reopening their economies. Gov. Lamont feels it would take at least another month before they could make a decision on reopening.

 

DELAWARE-Gov. Carney extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15. He also joined the above Northeastern state coalition.

 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-DC Mayor Bowser extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15.

 

FLORIDA-Gov. DeSantis (one of only two current Governors that I have met) issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has been a bit rogue, allowing disparity of orders among counties, not approving retroactive unemployment benefits, and pushing unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. He has closed schools until the end of the school year and cancelled graduation ceremonies. He has probably been the most active Governor in the US in defending his state borders from non-residents, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, and Louisiana. The Governor began slowly reopening public beaches, starting in the northern part of the state and moving southward. He promised in a briefing on Sunday to detail a slow reopening “pretty soon”.

 

GEORGIA-Gov. Kemp issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has closed schools until the end of the school year. He feels that his state is behind the curve, more so than other states, because of lack of testing. He has made it clear that churches will remain closed, but just opened up the beaches. Despite his admission that his state has one of the lowest rates of testing, Gov. Kemp is made a splash by opening gyms, tattoo shops, barbershops, nail and hair salons, massage studios, and bowling alleys to open up on Friday 4/24, to join the beaches that he already opened up. He wasn’t done though, as he also announced that theaters and restaurants could reopen on 4/27.

 

HAWAII-Gov. Ige issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He has been extremely quiet since.

 

IDAHO-Gov. Little issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. His goal is for most businesses to open after that.

 

ILLINOIS-Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order through at least 4/30. He hopes that restarting production will go “industry by industry, and maybe company by company.” On Friday, the Governor announced that the stay-at-home order was extended until 5/31, despite pressure from Chicago businesses. But, he will reopen golf courses and some public parks on 5/1.

 

INDIANA-Gov. Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order through 4/20, but it may be extended. He is encouraged, but mentioned that the “new normal” after restrictions are lifted may include new measures such as taking employees temperatures at work, wearing masks, and physical distancing.

 

*IOWA-Gov. Reynolds has not declared ANY stay-at-home order. However, he did issue an Emergency statement that closed all nonessential businesses until 4/30. This one of the states with probably the least restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, and one of only 7 states that technically didn’t issue a stay-at-home order.

 

KANSAS-Gov. Kelly issued a stay-at-home order, which has been extended to 5/3. She expects to see the state’s peak to be 4/19-4/29.

 

KENTUCKY-Gov. Beshear issued a “Healthy at Home” order that will be in effect indefinitely. He has closed schools until at least 5/1.

 

LOUISIANA-Gov. Edwards extended the stay-at-home order through 4/30.

 

MAINE-Gov. Mills issued a “Stay Healthy at Home” order through at least 4/30.

 

MARYLAND-Gov. Hogan issued a stay-at-home order with no end date.

 

MASSACHUSETTS-Gov. Baker issued an emergency order closing all nonessential businesses until 5/4. MA has joined the Northeastern states coalition.

 

MICHIGAN-Gov. Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15.She outlined the 4 factors she will take into consideration before reopening the state. She, along with Governors from New York and Florida, has been particularly vocal during the pandemic, particularly in criticizing the President. Her plan of action has been met with daily protests in Lansing at her doorstep, with mobs of people waving guns and some with Trump signs. Although the Governor extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 on Friday, perhaps, because of the recent protests, she has relaxed some restrictions, like some outdoor activities and purchasing garden supplies. She also reopened golf courses and motorized boating (but only for people from the same household.)

 

MINNESOTA-Gov. Walz extended the stay-at-home order through 5/3. Minnesota did just open golf courses on 4/18.

 

MISSISSIPPI-Gov. Reeves (I think he is one of only two current Governors I have met personally) issued a shelter-in-place order which expires on 4/20. He announced this week that schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester. He also said that “There are still more sacrifices to be made.”

 

MISSOURI-Gov. Parson issued a “Stay Home Missouri” order through 4/24 and has made no plans to reopen the state.

 

MONTANA-Gov. Bullock extended the stay-at-home order through 4/24. He said last Monday that he will allow the state to reopen sooner rather than later. The Governor decided on Friday to lift its stay-at-home order on Sunday 4/26.

 

*NEBRASKA-Gov. Ricketts issued the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” order on 4/10, which ordered all hair salons, tattoo parlors, and strip clubs closed through 4/30, and all organized group sports cancelled until 5/31. Nebraska is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

NEVADA-Gov. Sisolak issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He is monitoring several parameters in his decision to reopen the economy. On Friday, the Las Vegas Mayor, already somewhat controversial, said she wants to open up the casinos and the Strip as soon as possible, “even if it risks some lives.”

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE-Gov. Sununu extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. Public and private schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

 

NEW JERSEY-Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order with no specific end date. NJ is part of the coalition of Northeastern states. He said “that no one is more eager to restart our economy than I am.”

 

NEW MEXICO-Gov. Grisham extended the state’s emergency order to 4/30. She is waiting for the peak to occur, before taking any actions.

 

NEW YORK-Gov. Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order until 5/15. NY has joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has been the most vocal Governor in the country during the pandemic and the one who has challenged the President the most (and vice versa). This past Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo flew down to Washington to meet in-person with the President, and they aired out some issues. Following the meeting, the President pledged to support NY and get the the medical supplies that they need.

 

NORTH CAROLINA-Gov. Cooper issued a stay-at-home order until 4/29.

 

*NORTH DAKOTA-Gov. Burgum has only shut down schools, restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters and salons. ND is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

OHIO-Gov. DeWine issued a stay-at-home order in place until 5/1.

 

OKLAHOMA-Gov. Stitt extended a “Safer at Home” order for adults over age 65 and other vulnerable residents until 5/6. He is working on a plan to possibly open the state’s economy on 4/30. He is also allowing elective surgeries to resume on 4/24. On Friday, the Governor allowed hair salons and pet-grooming services to reopen.

 

OREGON-Gov. Brown issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date, until she sees a declining rate of active cases of COVID-19 and a return to normalcy.

 

PENNSYLVANIA-Gov. Wolf extended a stay-at-home order until 5/8. PA joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has seemed, like NY Gov. Cuomo, to be on the reluctant side to reopening his state’s economy. He said, “If it’s not in the best interest of keeping people safe, I’m not going to go along with it.” I could see this potentially becoming a moral, political, and revenue issue, as other states (Florida and Texas, for example) may be willing to reopen earlier, possibly to attract business away from the northeastern states coalition (which has happened to some degree previously due to state tax differences).

 

RHODE ISLAND-Gov. Raimondo issued an extension to the state’s stay-at-home order to until at least 5/8. RI has joined that Northeastern coalition of states.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA-Gov. McMaster extended his previous “State of Emergency” executive order through at least 4/27. He has said that, “We want to get all of these businesses going back as soon as we can.” The Governor has been opening up beaches slowly.

 

*SOUTH DAKOTA-Gov. Noem has refused to issue a stay-at-home order, despite the state’s COVID-19 cases spiking. SD is one of only 7 states without such an order. South Dakota’s Governor has been praised for her Sweden-like approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on herd immunity and sheltering only the at-risk population, while not cratering the local economy. However, on Monday, the NY Post reported that the confirmed cases in the state jumped from 129 to 988 since 4/1, when the Governor criticized other states’ “Draconian measures” of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. She even went on to say “South Dakota is not New York.” South Dakota is now home to one of the largest single clusters of COVID-19, with 300 workers at one pork processing plant of Smithfield Foods infected, according to the Washington Post.

 

TENNESSEE-Gov. Lee extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/30. He said that the state would be reopening the economy in May.

 

TEXAS-Gov. Abbott issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He said last Monday that only businesses “that will have minimal or zero impact on the spread of coronavirus will be the first to open up.” He intends to open some businesses on 5/1.

 

*UTAH-Gov. Herbert extended the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive through 5/1. Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. Technically, UT is one of the 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.

 

VERMONT-Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order which has been extended until 5/15.

 

VIRGINIA-Gov. Northam extended a stay-at-home order until 6/10. This is the longest such order among the 50 states, by more than a month.

 

WASHINGTON-Gov. Inslee extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. But he says he may soon loosen some restrictions.

 

WEST VIRGINIA-Gov. Justice issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date.

 

WISCONSIN-Gov. Evers issued a “Safer at Home” order that prohibits all nonessential travel until 4/24. Wisconsin just joined neighbor Minnesota in opening up golf courses on 4/18.

 

*WYOMING-Gov. Gordon did not issue a stay-at-home order, one of only 7 states that didn’t.

 

 

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected).  The 6,648,000 reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. On 4/9, Initial Claims jumped by 6,606,000. Then, on 4/15, Initial Claims were up another 5,000,000, taking the four week total of new Unemployment Claims to 22,000,000. Many officials and economists had forecasted a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people, and that looks like a spot-on forecast.  On 4/23, weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported up another 4,427,000, taking the grand total to over 26 million.

 

 

 

 

The US Government has streamlined the information on what relief is available for those impacted by COVID-19 on a website, benefits.gov. Okay, the first $349 billion of the SBA’s PPP program, a subset of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, was gobbled up in just 14 days! Ostensibly, of the 1.3 million applicants, small businesses were supposed to be allocated  these forgiveable loans to keep themselves afloat and pay their employees. But, some loopholes, greed, and bad behavior led to large Banks prioritizing their own customers (and I misspoke, it was not SBA that confirmed the banks could do that, but instead a Maryland judge ruled on 4/13, rejecting a lawsuit brought by 6 businesses against Bank of America), in some cases discarding or at least moving to the bottom applications from non-customers, and then prioritizing those customers by size (not first-come/first-serve). In the end, at least 78 corporations with revenues in excess of $100 million/year, received the bulk of the entire PPP, and many of the small businesses (particularly restaurants) were shouldered out of the way and received nothing. Luckily, the Senate and House have just approved a PPP 2, with $510 billion (only $450 billion of which is allocated to PPP 2 and the other $60 billion to Economic Injury Disaster Loan program), to be administered by the SBA again. By the way, back to the banks choosing large clients first, they were also favoring customers with existing loans at the bank for the PPP 1, which is a great idea from a business perspective and a terrible idea from a public relations perspective. It potentially replaces defaults in a bank’s small-business loan portfolio with government-guaranteed business loans. I know that the application forms were already being submitted, even though the House of Representatives hadn’t voted on it until Thursday, and the President then has to sign it. I do not see any significant changes in how the Government is going to police this round of PPP, so I am worried that they may miss the small businesses again. Along with Ruths’ Chris Steakhouse (who kept the $20 million), Shake Shack (who is now returning the $10 million), according to Newsweek, Harvard University Endowment, worth $40 billion, received $8.7 million in Federal Aid for pandemic relief. President Trump asked them publicly to return it, and Harvard said ‘no’. After public outcry and more pressure from the Government, Harvard reluctantly agreed to return the money. Since I wrote this on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin addressed the abuse of PPP 1 and said that all public companies that received PPP loans must return them over the next 2 weeks or face severe consequences. So, maybe PPP 2 will go better than I thought. Also, since I wrote this, the House voted to pass the bill 388-5 and the President signed the new COVID-19 relief bill, which became only $484 billion, of which $381 billion is for PPP 2. I don’t know why the numbers kept changing, probably because of politics and maybe because of the money that Treasury is going to force the corporations to give back from PPP 1. Banks, however, have pocketed a tidy $10 billion in fees (so far) for processing applications, from the SBA.  For PPP 2, which launched today (4/27), the SBA has limited each bank to 10% of the funds available, $60 billion per bank, attempting to more evenly distribute the loans. Still, there are probably other tweaks that Treasury and SBA could make, to make sure the loans reach small business owners. I think they should reduce the maximum loan size and change the way the banks are paid, rather than a sliding scale based on principal amount of loans.

 

 

This is an odd piece of news, those hoarders who grabbed up tons of toilet paper, thinking (I guess) that there was not going to be anymore, and they could sell it to neighbors at an inflated price, now want their money back. Costco has said ‘no’ to returns. I am hearing from my friends with Internet businesses that they are having phenomenal results during the quarantine, in some cases tripling or quadrupling their normal volumes. However, they all express frustration right now with Amazon, who wouldn’t take stockpiles in, because they were focused only on PPE, and so now that they are taking orders for non-PPE, they don’t have supplies to ship out, so there are significant delays. I know that I ordered 2 sets of masks about 5 weeks ago on Amazon, and they still haven’t arrived. I’m guessing that they will arrive, right when the quarantine order is lifted. Ironically, this world reset may have cured me cold-turkey, without a 12-step process, of my Amazon Prime addiction. I can’t say enough about Publix grocery stores down here in Florida. First off, they are not only the anchor store to many shopping plazas here, but they are usually also the landlord to the other shops in the plazas, owning the entire plaza. Early on in the quarantine, they told those shops that their rents were suspended. They have continued to work hard with customers on increasing levels of cleanliness and use of PPE and social distancing. Now, since they heard farmers were having trouble, due to restaurants being closed and distributors not ordering as much, Publix announced on Thursday that they will buy all of the excess food that the farmers have and donate it to the food banks.

 

Which brings up another interesting topic, one you have heard me speak about for over 12 years, disintermediation. We have discussed the Fed disintermediating the primary dealers with its RPP program, the international corporations disintermediating the money funds in Europe to go to the international banks directly, the P2P happening between insurance companies and money funds in the US, which was a subset of the P2P that I continue to work on. But, I had this fascinating discussion with this Editor of a Food & Wine magazine, who said disintermediation has come to the food industry. With yachting and restaurants being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, wholesalers of high-end food products have lost their natural customers. Some restaurants are still purchasing for their Take-Out Order business or delivery business, but the numbers are down substantially. The worry for the farmers and wholesalers is that many of the restaurants that are closed may not re-open in the future, permanently changing their revenue landscape. The savvy ones though had begun doing Internet ordering for retail customers at wholesale prices. This is the basic tenet for P2P in our business, mid-market rates because there are less middlemen or pieces of the pie to be shared. In this case, it’s the restaurants who are the middlemen, who work a kind of bid/offer spread of prices between the wholesalers/farmers and the retail public.  The wineries have been doing direct customer business for years, bypassing the 100-300% markup of liquor distributors and then of liquor stores. I think it’s interesting, confirms my belief in what I was pioneering in our industry, and may be the future of other industries. I’m not sure how the surviving restaurants will feel about it, but much of the cache of restaurants is how well they PREPARE or COOK food, the ambience of the establishments, the friendliness and service of staff, and the crowd. For that, the public will likely still pay a price.

 

Ripple effect seems to be the theme of this Repo Commentary.  Here is another one, as almost all retail stores and restaurants are closed, or restricted, they are not swiping credit cards for customer purchases, and in turn, are not paying credit card fees to issuers. Consequently, American Express posted a 76% drop in profits in Q1. Another ripple effect to less retail sales will be declining sales tax revenues in those states that have sales tax.

 

 

I had mentioned a couple of Repo Commentaries ago that I had heard a rumor that the only way Joe Biden could get the reluctant endorsement of his President, Barack Obama, was to promise some cooperation on whom he picked as his running mate. I actually heard that it might be a friend of Michelle Obama. On Friday, the rumor was that, in fact, it could be Michelle Obama herself! However, what Biden actually said was that he’s pick Michelle Obama for Vice President “in a heartbeat.” Biden said, however, that he doesn’t think she would agree. Michelle Obama was voted the ‘most admired woman’ in 2018 and 2019, according to a Gallup poll. Her book “Becoming” became the best-selling memoir last year, selling more than 10 million copies.

 

 

Did I mention that President Trump is suspending immigration to the US for 60 days, citing to control the COVID-19 crisis and jobs shortage, but will allow some workers, per the Washington Post? In separate news, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for COVID-19 relief package to include undocumented immigrants.

 

 

Researchers now believe that ‘distance learning’ is changing students’ behaviors, and leading to richer, deeper learning. Those who are quiet normally, now speak up during video chats. Students appear more observant and connected to their experiences, and it is showing in their writing. The erosion of the formal classroom has allowed relationships to blossom as people peered into each other’s lives. Students say they are distanced but strangely intimate.

 

 

Bankruptcy News:

 

Okay, out with the COVID-19 Conspiracy News and in with the Bankruptcy News. Apparently, although I wrote this section on Friday, mainstream media has caught up to me on Monday, so it is really current.  AP reported this morning that the number of US businesses filing for Chapter 11 increased in March, despite the creation of relief programs. Lawyers who work with distressed businesses say there are signs many owners are considering bankruptcy. In fact, many experts say that the PPP 1 and PPP 2 will help space out the timing of all the small business bankruptcies that are expected to hurt bank portfolios and the economy. During the Financial Crisis, rescue programs were used to kind of “foam the runway” for mortgage defaults. This time, rescue programs could be seen as “flattening the curve” for business bankruptcies. If you recall, early in April, Dairy milk producer and owner of Friendly’s, Dean Foods, filed bankruptcy. In the court-supervised auction, it found bid for ‘substantially all’ of its milk-processing facilities, for more than $530 million. Bidders included Dairy Farmers of America and Prairie Farms Dairy. I mentioned that 24Hour Fitness was contemplating bankruptcy and I discussed it with you here in the Repo Commentary, posing the question of “how can a nationwide gym that is not open, so not paying employees or having overhead, yet still collecting from members (unfairly), not turn a profit?” Well, now for the rest of the story. It turns out that many of the credit card processors chose not to process those credit card monthly payments from the members, worrying that they would have the payments clawed back at some point by regulators or lawsuits from members. It’s strange that they would take on the role of the judicial system. On top of it, it turns out that usually the corporate office decides which credit card processors to go with, so franchise owners have no ability to move to other credit card processors of their choice. So, there may be bankruptcies and probably lawsuits to come.  Neiman Marcus is expected to file for bankruptcy this week. Somehow, I thought they had already filed for bankruptcy years ago. But, that isn’t unusual. Sometimes, corporate bankruptcy is used as part of a business plan, to rid debt to be purchased or to create a poison pill. There have been a number of large retail chains that have filed bankruptcy in recent years. Just in 2019, Destination Maternity filed in October, Sugarfina filed in September, Forever 21 filed in September, Fred’s filed in September, Barneys New York filed (for the second time) in August, Avenue filed in August, A’Gaci filed (for the second time) in August, Charming Charlie (for the second time) in July, FTD Florists in June, Sonia Rykiel in April, Roberto Cavalli in April, Z Gallerie (for the second time) in March, Diesel in March, Charlotte Russe in February, FullBeauty Brands in February, Payless in February, Gymboree (for the second time) in January, and SHOPKO in January. And, that was just in 2019. In 2018, we saw some major retail bankruptcies in David’s Bridal, Sears, Mattress Firm, Gump’s, Brookstone, National Stores Inc., Rockport, Nine West, Remington Outdoors (a gun manufacturer during the height of that industry because of the lawsuits stemming from 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre), Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, among others.

 

International News:

 

 

It looks like our US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison (a former journalist and politician, with no diplomatic experience) may have slipped with a remark she made last Tuesday, before a meeting of NATO defense ministers, in which she said something that sounded like a preemptive strike on Russian medium and short range missiles. She had to post on her Twitter page a clarifying record that she did not mean a preemptive strike. However, NATO is extremely concerned about Russia’s new missile system called 9M729, a new cruise missile, which appears to violate the INF Treaty. Russia has responded by saying that the US, itself, has already had 3 violations of the same treaty.  Sweden’s decision to not lock down its economy, allowing the COVID-19 virus to run its course while the population reaches herd immunity, shielding just the elderly and at-risk citizens, appears to be working, according to the nation’s chief epidemiologist. He has predicted that herd immunity, when about 60% of the population is immune, will be reached in the capital of Stockholm within 2-3 weeks. The country has encouraged social distancing and banned gatherings of more than 50, while urging people over 70-years-old or in a high-risk group to stay at home. But, they kept businesses, restaurants, and schools open. However, Sweden’s number of deaths is higher than in other Nordic countries, however, with 16,700 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in a population of about 10 million. If they were to build up herd immunity, it may be possible that they wouldn’t be as susceptible to a second wave. NATO issued a warning on 4/18 to watch out for Chinese companies swooping in with cash to buy strategic stakes or majority control in US and European companies, as those asset prices fall due to the pandemic, according to Forbes.  Yet, Forbes also ran an article 3/1/20 about how “Coronavirus Could Be The End of China As a Global Manufacturing Hub.” So, I don’t really know which way to feel. I read an article written by an ex-pat in Thailand, which said that Thailand has become unattractive to expats, leading to an exodus of some 15% so far, to the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the last 2 years. There are several reasons for this exodus, including the rise of Thai baht, increased pension and immigration requirements, higher-than-reported inflation, stricter travel restrictions out fo country and between provinces, and recent Thai government health minister’s remark to watch out for expats (he used a negative racist term) spreading the virus in Thailand. There were several reports last week and this weekend, that North Korean President Kim, who has not been seen in public since 4/1/20, died from a heart procedure he had. North Korea says the surgery was successful and that the leader is not dead. A special report on the impact COVID-19 lockdowns are having on drug traffickers is interesting. Reuters actually spoke to two Sinaloa Cartel members who complained about how the shutdown of the US-Mexico border, to slow the spread of the virus, has complicated their distribution lines.  I don’t think anyone is going to give them a bailout. US warships entered the disputed waters of South China Sea, as tensions with China have escalated. The USS America, an amphibious assault ship, the USS Bunker Hill, a guided missile cruiser, entered the contested waters off Malaysia. At the same time, a Chinese government ship in the area has for days been tailing a Malaysian state oil company ship carrying out exploratory drilling. Chinese and Australian military ships have also been in nearby waters, according to Pentagon reports. Last month, China opened two new research stations on artificial reefs it has built on maritime turf claimed by the Philippines and other countries. The reefs are also equipped with defense silos and military-grade runways.

 

 

Florida:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.

 

 

On Sunday, Florida surpassed 31,520 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths of 1,074. Although, Palm Beach County’s City Council met last Tuesday, 4/21, to decide whether to open up PB County beaches, parks, and private golf courses, and left them all closed, they met again today (4/27) and decided on Wednesday 4/29, parks, golf courses (yay!), marinas, boat ramps, community pools (yay), and other recreational activities will be allowed to reopen in Palm Beach County. I actually had a tee-time the Thursday morning after they were ordered closed and just called the same golf course to get one for Wednesday, and they told me they were caught by surprise, so won’t be open until this Thursday. I saw on tonight’s local news that PB County will require each golfer to have their own golf cart and continue to use social distancing and to not touch the flags/pins. Ironically, the USGA had just changed that rule a year ago, no longer requiring that golfers on the green remove the pin or receive a penalty. I guess, now you’ll receive a penalty from the county, for NOT removing the pin. Florida is dealing with their woeful DEO unemployment system, which keeps freezing up and all the payments that have not gone out yet. The State is bringing the unemployment system down for 3 days, to work on it and try to make payments faster. The unemployment application part of it became so disabled, that the state gave out paper applications at its sites and at Kinko’s FedEx offices. Florida nursing homes are now pushing to be protected from liability for harm to residents during the COVID-19 public health emergency, as those people would have had a higher mortality rate due to their higher risk. But the industry’s failure to fully comply with a 2018 law requiring nursing homes to have backup electric generators, coupled with some nursing home staff abandoning patients in other states, may impede those efforts. Governor DeSantis announced that he believes that Central Florida has passed its COVID-19 peak. So, this is moving along, as I reported it previously, with reopening of northern Florida, then central Florida, then Western Florida, and last finally Southern Florida (where there is a much higher concentration of population). Well, Mother Nature has not been the only silver lining in this pandemic. Miami just went 7 weeks without a homicide, for the first time since 1957. Crime rates in cities nationwide have dropped dramatically during the pandemic stay-at-home orders. Our COVID-19 testing site in FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, here is West Palm Beach, was ripped apart yesterday, during an early afternoon severe storm we had, with major rain and hail and wind gusts up to 80mph! It dropped the temperature by 22 degrees in 30 minutes and caused a lot of tree damage and downed power lines. I watched from my balcony as at least 25 transformers blew in the distance. That was the most violent non-hurricane storm I have ever been in.

 

 

My 6-part Harmony Group, Generation Gap, and I actually performed a charity concert this Saturday, 4/25, at Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter, FL while practicing social distancing for people from the hospitality and entertainment industries in the parking lot, who received free food from the restaurant’s owner, Vince Flora, in return for donations to help hospitatility and entertainment workers in the county. To avoid breaching the county and state pandemic rules, we stayed 6 feet apart and sang on an outdoor stage to the line of about 100 cars in the drive-up. I guess this is what it would be like to sing for a McDonald’s Drive-Thru. “Would you like a song or fries with that hamburger?” We did have about 20 cars wind up parking in the lot for the last hour with their windows open to enjoy the concert.

 

 

Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses 5 weeks ago, urging people to stay at home. It probably would have been easier and shorter to just list the “non-essential” (also known as ‘fun’) businesses that they were closing (realtors, bars, churches, retail stores, clothing stores, golf courses, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, beaches, parks, amusement parks, and strip clubs.) They specifically designated “essential” businesses (allowed to be Open) as the following (by the way, the Governor oddly made WWE wrestling an ‘essential’ business:

 

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Dentists’ offices
  • Urgent care centers
  • Clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Physical therapists
  • Mental health professionals
  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Research and laboratory services
  • Blood banks
  • Medical cannabis facilities
  • Medical equipment facilities
  • Healthcare manufacturers and suppliers
  • Reproductive healthcare service providers
  • Substance abuse providers
  • Medical transport services
  • Pharmacies
  • Grocery stores
  • Farmers markets
  • Farm and produce stands
  • Supermarkets
  • Food banks
  • Convenience stores
  • Liquor stores*
  • Businesses engaged in food cultivation (farming, livestock, fishing, etc.)
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and necessities of life for needy individuals
  • Newspapers
  • Television stations
  • Radio stations
  • Media services
  • Gas stations
  • Automobile dealerships
  • Auto-supply stores
  • Auto-repair facilities
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Insurance firms
  • Pawn shops
  • Hardware stores
  • Gardening stores
  • Building material stores
  • Contractors and other trades
  • Building management
  • Maintenance
  • Home Security Firms
  • Fire and Water Damage Restoration
  • Public adjusters
  • Appliance repair personnel
  • Exterminators
  • Mailing businesses
  • Shipping services
  • Private colleges to provide distance learning
  • Trade schools to provide distance learning
  • Technical colleges to provide distance learning
  • University, College or Technical College residence halls for students who cannot return to their homes
  • Laundromats
  • Dry cleaners
  • Laundry service providers
  • Restaurants for take-out only*
  • Schools and other entities to provide free food pickup
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Adult day care centers
  • Businesses providing professional legal or accounting services
  • Landscape companies
  • Pool care businesses
  • Childcare facilities
  • Airports
  • Seaports
  • Logistics providers
  • Warehouses
  • Trucking consolidators
  • Fumigators
  • Handlers
  • Telecommunication providers
  • Propane and natural gas services
  • Open construction sites
  • Architectural firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Land surveying firms
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Bottling plants
  • Industrial distribution
  • Supply chain facilities
  • Waste management services
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Commercial lodging establishments
  • Temporary vacation rentals
  • Veterinarians
  • Pet boarding facilities
  • Mortuaries
  • Funeral homes
  • Crematories
  • Cemeteries
  • Funeral product suppliers
  • Firearm and ammunition supply stores
  • Any businesses providing services to government
  • Electrical production and distribution services
  • Moving, storage, and relocation services
  • Personal grooming services: hair salons and nail salons?
  • Religious services
  • Natural gas, water, electric utilities and cable service providers

 

 

 

I am usually singing a National Anthem, singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, and/or doing an Elvis Presley gig, each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. I had many gigs in November and December, quieted down in January, but had picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games.  However, that all came to a halt when MLB CANCELLED Spring Training and Florida authorities limited gatherings to less than 50, particularly for events and restaurants, then closed the restaurants, except for Delivery and Takeout. We are actually in constant touch with party planners, hotels, and restaurant owners, who are planning to hire us as soon as they reopen, some guessing that that will be in June or July.  If you were inclined to see much more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there were many acts which came to Florida in 2019, and these were scheduled for for 2020 (below), although that all changed with COVID-19.  A public service announcement about the outdoor amphitheater in West Palm Beach (currently adjacent to the South Florida Fair), it has been very confusing with all the name changes, and it has happened again.  It was originally called the Coral Sky Amphitheater, then was changed to the Cruzan Rum Amphitheater, then to Perfekt Vodka Amphitheater, then back to Coral Sky Amphitheater, and was changed again to iThink Financial Services Amphitheater. None of the names have been particularly catchy and all those changes occurred only in the last 11 years! Because of the pandemic, some events, such as fairs and boat shows in Florida have been cancelled or postponed.  So, please check ahead of time to see if the concert you are going to is still being held.

 

SOUTH FLORIDA 2020 SCHEDULE (next 2 months):

 

Celine Dion-Miami, January 17

Queensryche-Fort Lauderdale, January 17

Brian Wilson-Miami, January 17

Mary Wilson-Bonita Springs, January 19

Starship-West Palm Beach, January 22

Steve Martin & Martin Short-Hollywood, January 25

Guns N Roses-Miami, January 31

Jason Aldean,Riley Green,Morgan Wallen-Orlando, January 31

Maroon 5-Miami, February 1

Zac Brown Band-Sunrise, February 1

Styx-Port St. Lucie, February 1

Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 11

Kool and the Gang & Village People-Key West, February 21

John Fogarty-Fort Lauderdale, February 22

Paul Anka-West Palm Beach, March 13

Harry Connick Jr.-Fort Lauderdale, March 18

Cher-Miami, March 24

America-Fort Lauderdale, March 24

YES and Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, March 25

Little River Band-Fort Lauderdale, March 26

The Who-Fort Lauderdale, April 21

Elton John-Miami, May 30

Def Leppard and Motley Crue, Miami Gardens, July 7

Nickelback-West Palm Beach, August 15

Foreigner, Kansas, and Europe-West Palm Beach, September 6

 

Jokes and Such:

 

The Language Nerds put together 30 English words that are rarely known to most people (I have used 5 of these words on occasion) for you to insert in your normal conversation:

  • Nillionaire-someone having little to no money.
  • Minimus-your tiny toe or finger.
  • Serendipity-finding something good without looking for it.
  • Quixotic-unrealistically optimistic.
  • Caruncle-The triangular pink areas at the corner of your eyes.
  • Agelast-a person who never laughs.
  • Osculator-one who loves or one who is loved.
  • Callipygian-having large, round, succulent buttocks.
  • Limerance-the state of being infatuated with someone.
  • Oxter-armpit.
  • Atrate-dressed in black.
  • Applepick-steal someone’s iPhone.
  • Axicolous-something that lives on rocks.
  • Metanoia-spriitual transformation.
  • Pauciloquent-concise.
  • Jamais-vu-the feeling familiar is being encountered for the first time.
  • Laodicean-indifferent.
  • Cacoethes-bad idea.
  • Vaticinate-predict.
  • Zoilism-criticism.
  • Mephitic-smelly.
  • Dysania-the state of finding it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Febrile-feverish.
  • Tittle-the dot over an ‘I’ or a ‘j’.
  • Idoneous-appropriate.
  • Kenspeckle-recognizable.
  • Tergiversate-equivocate.
  • Gigil-the irresistible urge to pinch of squeeze something cute.
  • Malarkey-nonsense or balderdash.
  • Bravado-someone who is full of a false sense of courage that masks a hidden fear.